This PhD project is investigating the ability of plant growth promoters – such as herbicides and fungicides – to increase the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. It is funded by the BBSRC and AstraZeneca.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the evolution of an organism so that antimicrobials that would once kill bacteria or inhibit their growth are less or no longer effective.
Due to overuse and misuse of these compounds, AMR among organisms has increased. The rise of resistance is of great concern as clinical pathogens may become untreatable, resulting in increased deaths from drug resistant infections, higher risk surgeries and cancer treatments.
The environmental dimension of AMR has been recognised in recent years as an important factor in the spread and development of resistance and there is a diverse range of microorganisms in the environment.
When chemical pollutants such as antimicrobials are released, they may cause stress to the bacteria existing there and as a result the bacteria can evolve to overcome the chemical stress by developing resistance. The environmental bacteria can share their resistance with clinically relevant pathogens and as a result may impact human health.
Recent research has looked at the ability of non-antimicrobials such as metals and biocides to contribute towards the spread of resistance, yet little is known about the cocktail of other chemicals released into the environment.
By considering the ability of herbicides and fungicides to increase the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, this project will focus on how resistance might occur in terrestrial environments as a result of crop farming; where plant growth promoters are regularly applied in high concentrations.