Antibiotic resistance in farm animals

This project is investigating the conditions under which antibiotic resistance genes are advantageous to bacteria, with a focus on farm animals.

The spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in the clinic has recently been identified as a major threat to human health by the World Health Organisation.

In order to come up with successful mitigation strategies to battle this spread of resistance, the underlying mechanisms of the environmental evolution and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes need to be understood.

One of the main reservoirs in the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the gastrointestinal system of farm animals, who are commonly under constant antibiotic therapy. Their gut system is colonized by billions of bacteria and exposed to high concentrations of diverse antibiotics – which are subsequently released into the environment in manure.

This research project will increase our understanding of the evolution of antibiotic resistance genes in the gastrointestinal system of farm pigs. We will identify what concentrations of antibiotics are beneficial for a bacterium to be resistant, and explore if this is dependent on how diverse the bacterial community is.

Our results will help to identify and subsequently avoid environmental conditions under which resistance genes blossom and are enriched in bacterial communities.

This study is funded with support from a MRC/BBSRC grant (MR/N007174/1) awarded to Dr Will Gaze, more information will be made available as it develops.