New £8.7 million project seeks to understand the health risks posed by coastal waters due to climate change

Posted on 3rd October 2022

The impact of climate change on health risks due to pathogens in the environment, specifically in our coastal waters, will be investigated by a new €10 million Horizon Europe project developed by the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health and led by the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3). The BlueAdapt project involves 12 institutes from across 10 countries in Europe, bringing together an interdisciplinary team of researchers including microbiologists, epidemiologists, economists, climate scientists and policy specialists. The project will focus on a wide range of pathogens including antimicrobial resistant bacterial pathogens which are becoming increasingly hard to treat with antimicrobial drugs commonly known as antibiotics.

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated that there is need for a much better understanding of environmental pathogens. The project will help future pandemic preparedness by identifying when and where pathogens may evolve and what the risk factors for environmental transmission to humans are.

Dr Tim Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Environmental and Public Health Economics at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health who conceived the bid said:

“Our coastal waters are important to our society in terms of providing space for recreation, food to our tables and supporting a range of industries. It is important we understand how bacteria and viruses will respond to changes in our climate and society – so we can better plan for the future. Through a series of case studies, BlueAdapt will focus in on change in different areas of Europe and look at different options for responding to these emerging threats.”

Professor Will Gaze who leads the Environmental Dimension of Antimicrobial Resistance research unit at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human health said:

“Antimicrobial drug resistant infections are predicted to be the leading cause of death by 2050 and the role of the natural environment in the evolution and transmission of antimicrobial resistant pathogens is increasingly being recognised. With partners including those at Bangor University in Wales and the University of Galway in Ireland we will use a combination of experimental evolution and sophisticated modelling approaches to better understand the effects of climate change on risks posed by pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in the environment”.

Prof Marc Neumann, Research Professor at BC3 and BlueAdapt’s Principal Investigator explains:

“BlueAdapt presents a unique opportunity for us to investigate emerging disease risks in our coastal waters. We hope to be able to improve the understanding on how bacteria and viruses in coastal zones will respond to changes in our climate and how this in turn may impact the health of the European population. We will investigate policy responses, including early warning systems, and estimate expected benefits of adaptation actions.”

BlueAdapt is a partnership between the Basque Centre for Climate Change, University of Exeter, Charles University, University of Warsaw, University of Galway, Deltares, CMCC, EuroHealthNet, Bangor University, Istituto Superiore di Sanita, University of the Basque Country and ThenTryThis.

BlueAdapt is funded under European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 101057764  and by UKRI/HM Government.

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