Understanding Use of Agricultural Azoles & its Impact on Quality of Waterbodies and AMR
University of Bath: Neil Brown
University of Bristol: Susan Conlon, Arleen Kristhel Lezcano
University of Exeter: Dhara Malavia (PI), Ray Chan, Aimee Murray, Andrew Jones
Environmental AMR is an emerging global concern and agricultural azoles are one of the major contributors that have been overlooked until now. Agricultural azoles are a class of chemical fungicides constituting 36% of all fungicides and are widely used on farmlands to protect crops from fungal diseases. They are sprayed annually on farmlands thus persisting in soils and entering nearby surface waterbodies. While previous studies have investigated impact of azoles in farm soils, their presence in natural water bodies and impact on AMR remains unexplored. Since azoles also form the first line of treatment for human fungal infections, their extensive use in agriculture and subsequent presence in waterbodies can pose a serious threat to human health.
The Generator Fund supported a three part project, working to understand how the use of azole fungicide on farms may affect environmental AMR in local waterbodies. First, they sampled local waterbodies over time to quantify the presence of agricultural azoles over a key period of farm activity. They also interviewed farmers and engaged with stakeholders to understand the socio-economic impact of azole use in farming. Finally, an evolutionary study informed a risk assessment of AMR development in common environmental fungi upon exposure to agricultural azoles. These projects are being written into publications and have been presented at conferences; and will form the basis of future grant applications with key stakeholders including the Westcountry Rivers Trust.
The community also co-ordinated a public engagement activity around their research, which took place at the Superbugs event in Exeter in early 2023.