This project is exploring the ecological drivers of drug resistant pathogens in the environment, focusing on implications from water.
Although safe drinking water is considered a fundamental human right, we currently know very little about the diversity and distribution of multidrug-resistant pathogens in our water supply.
This research will characterize the diversity and prevalence of antibiotic resistant pathogenic bacteria present in aquatic environments, examining their ecological drivers to assess human infection risks.
The vital role of the natural environment in the dissemination of, and selection for, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through pollution with resistant bacteria, antibiotic residues, biocides and heavy metals is becoming increasingly understood.
Risks to human health posed by resistant bacteria present in the environment are likely to be significant. There is evidence for a range of pathogens that AMR and virulence genes can be carried on the same mobile genetic elements, and these could potentially spread between species.
Poor microbiological water quality poses a major threat to environmental and human health and is likely to deteriorate as global climate and land use changes over coming decades. Worryingly, the global increase in AMR could mean that exposure to contaminated waters leads to infections that are very hard or impossible to treat.
By understanding the potential for AMR to spread in water-based spaces, this research will take the first steps in understanding how these environments might act as a source of resistant bacterial strains.