AMR launch demonstrates power of interdisciplinary collaborative research

July 14, 2021

The GW4 Alliance (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities) showcased their collaborative and complementary research strengths at the launch event of their new ‘One Health’ antimicrobial resistance (AMR) research consortium.

The GW4 AMR Alliance has been established to tackle the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and aims to become the UK’s leading interdisciplinary ‘One Health’ AMR research consortium, recognised worldwide.

The World Health Organisation cites AMR as one of the most significant risks facing the world. Antimicrobial resistance where bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic pathogens become resistant to existing antimicrobial drugs is an increasing global societal threat, as there is no matching increase in new antibiotics or new therapies to help treat patients’ infections. AMR threatens global health and development as it impacts on human, animal and plant health and also our environment, water safety and food security.

Over 150 guests attended the online symposium, on 16 June, ranging from funders, government agencies, AMR organisations, charities, NHS and Public Health England/Wales, industry, researchers, and PhD students from across the UK.

The launch event showcased GW4’s cross-disciplinary AMR research collaborations and some of the One Health AMR projects and programmes being undertaken by GW4 teams and their collaborators, including talks from members of the Alliance’s steering group who discussed some of their latest findings from AMR projects.

Key topics covered included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on AMR, climate change as a potential driver of AMR, and the importance of understanding the socio-cultural dimensions in adopting a global One Health approach to AMR.

Dr Kristen Reyher, Reader in Veterinary Epidemiology and Population Health and leader of Bristol Vet School’s AMR Force research group and Matthew Avison, Professor of Molecular Bacteriology from Bristol’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine presented findings from their NERC-funded One Health Selection and Transmission of AMR project, which showed that on dairy farms in our region, higher seasonal temperatures were associated with finding higher levels of AMR in E. coli bacteria which has potential implications on infectious diseases, and potentially more AMR, given  rising temperature and climate change.    

Helen Lambert, Professor of Medical Anthropology at the Bristol Medical School and lead of the UK-China AMR Partnership Hub STAR-CHINA, discussed the social and cultural drivers which underpin the threat of AMR such as antibiotic prescribing and environmental exposure via water use practices, highlighting the need for interventions that alter AMR transmission pathways to take patterns of human behaviour into account.

Professor Adilia Warris, Co-Director of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Exeter, discussed the challenges of antifungal resistance in clinical practice and drew attention to the serious problem of azole (a class of antifungal agent used to protect crops) resistant Aspergillus fumigatus infections in immunosuppressed patients.

Professor Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, Co-Director of Research at Cardiff University and Chair of the GW4 AMR Alliance spoke about AMR lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis and antibiotic treatment failure. Remarking on the AMR Alliance he commented: “This is a very exciting and timely consortium bringing the considerable AMR research strengths across the GW4 universities together to work as one cohesive unit to drive forward our understanding of AMR, and to develop new interventions for containing and controlling AMR.”     

Dr Maisem Laabei, Lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, introduced our new GW4 Early Career AMR community focused on developing leads to treat multi-drug resistant pathogens. This interdisciplinary network includes researchers from each GW4 university and stemmed from the GW4 2020 Crucible programme which was themed around ‘Interdisciplinary approaches to AMR’.

Dr Timothy Jinks, Head of the Drug-Resistant Infections Programme at the Wellcome Trust, who delivered the keynote lecture, said: “Containing and controlling AMR requires collaborative, long-term, interdisciplinary and sustainable research taking a global One Health approach. It is great news that the GW4 AMR Alliance is launching to increase understanding, development and implementation of effective interventions.”

The GW4 AMR Alliance builds on and enhances the GW4 universities’ strong and diverse portfolio of AMR research. GW4 has enhanced interdisciplinary resources and expertise, which go beyond the remit of clinical health AMR issues, to understand the influence of the environment and society on AMR.

Following the launch event, the GW4 Alliance is already being asked to participate in knowledge sharing between academia, industry and clinicians. The Alliance will continue to influence the AMR agenda by bringing potential collaborators together in workshops to develop new projects and funding applications to help find real world solutions to the complex global challenge of AMR.

Our partners and GW4 researchers from all disciplines, including our early career researchers and postgraduate students, working or interested in AMR are invited to join our GW4 AMR Alliance by completing a short online registration form.

GW4 AMR Alliance Launch event presentations

Watch the launch event presentations on our GW4 YouTube account

(Image credit: Dr Ginny Gould (University of Bristol) ‘The One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand (OH DART) team learning about Thai farming systems from Thai farmers to help them better design the research questions in the work programme (funded by the MRC/DoHSc MRC ‘AMR in a Global Context’ full award to the universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Chulaborn Research Institute and Mahidol University, Thailand).