Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant global threat to human health, with the environment playing an increasingly important role in the evolution and spread of AMR. Microplastics are ubiquitous in aquatic systems and regularly co-occur with AMR bacteria, human pathogens, and antimicrobial residues in faecal contaminated environments.
Microbial assemblages present on microplastic surfaces, referred to as the ‘Plastisphere’, have been previously identified to be distinct from the surrounding environment and natural debris, and may act as potential hotspots of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
This PhD project aims to investigate whether microplastics are important platforms for the growth, enrichment and dissemination of AMR biofilms, and whether there are associated ecological implications of microplastics, antimicrobials and AMR on the gut microbiota of marine organisms.
Given that microplastics are extremely prevalent and persistent, this may have significant consequences on human and environmental health, including increasing human exposure to drug-resistant pathogens in coastal environments. Therefore, the outcomes of this research may help to inform waste management practices and environmental monitoring of both microplastics and AMR.
This work is under the supervision of Dr Aimee Murray (CMH), Prof Angus Buckling (CLES), Dr Matt Cole (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) and Prof Pennie Lindeque (Plymouth Marine Laboratory). It is funded by the College of Medicine and Health, the College of Life and Environment Sciences, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and philanthropic support.