Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
12 Nov 2018
From the Atlantic Ocean to our own backyards, our researchers have been hunting high and low for inspiration to help better understand and tackle superbugs. For World Antibiotic Awareness Week Jonathan Pearce, MRC’s Head of Infections and Immunity, highlights some of the remarkable interdisciplinary teams carrying out this fascinating research.
Today, more than ever, we’re aware of antibiotic resistance as a growing, global problem that desperately needs an answer. According to recent reports, by 2050 superbugs could kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
Petri dishes showing bacteria cultures.
Over the past five years alone, in partnership with the other UKRI councils, we’ve made huge efforts to better understand this threat and find solutions – together investing £44 million in 78 UK projects and £41 million in projects worldwide. Collaboration helps fire up imagination, insight and innovation. That’s why we’ve brought together researchers with different skills and experiences across the sciences, engineering, arts and humanities. [...]
Continue reading: From deep-sea sponges to dragonfly wings: Superbug research from unexpected places
1 Aug 2018
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most serious global threats to human health in the 21st century. One of the researchers taking on this challenge is Professor Matthew Avison of the University of Bristol who is leading the ‘One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand’ consortium project. Here, he tells us about the benefits of working together across borders and disciplines, and how the consortium’s approach can help inform AMR research worldwide.
In Thailand, AMR is estimated to have led to 38,000 deaths in 2010 and cost the economy $1.2 billion. Since then, the problem has continued to grow.
The Thai authorities are monitoring the situation closely and the World Health Organisation recognises their surveillance as an exemplary model for other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). But the research to date has been in discrete areas.
Ta Chin River [...]
Continue reading: Antimicrobial resistance in Thailand: taking a holistic approach
10 May 2018
Last month, our researchers channelled their creativity into a one-off UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Superheroes vs Superbugs night at the Science Museum in London. Over 1,000 people came to meet some of the superheroes taking on the fight against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. Petra Kiviniemi reports.
Antibiotics underpin nearly every aspect of modern medicine, but ever-increasing numbers of pathogens are becoming resistant to our arsenal of drugs. So now researchers are working harder than ever to discover new ways to prevent and treat drug-resistant infections.
Scientists transported guests into the hidden world of bacteria, using virtual reality to shrink them down to the size of bacterial proteins.
The Science Museum currently plays host to Superbugs: The Fight for our lives. It’s an exhibition for anyone to visit and learn about the causes, consequences, and possible solutions for the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). [...]
Continue reading: Superbugs vs Superheroes: Getting creative with antimicrobial resistance
13 Nov 2017
Bacteria resistant to drugs are stopping us from treating infectious diseases and undermining medical advances. So what can we do about it? This WHO Antibiotic Awareness Week Dr Jonathan Pearce, Head of Infections and Immunity at the MRC, explains why understanding how resistance develops and spreads is key to tackling antibiotic resistance. And how using this knowledge, we can find creative new ways of preventing and treating infections.
Enterobacteria grown on a selective agar plate.
Antibiotic resistance is now recognised as one of the most serious threats to human health, spreading across national boundaries. It arises from a complex interplay between biomedical, animal, social, cultural and environmental factors. If we are to meet this challenge, we need to take both an international and interdisciplinary approach. [...]
Continue reading: Antibiotic resistance: how we’ll beat it together
17 Nov 2016
Last year a UK-China research collaboration took an unexpected turn following the discovery of resistance to the ‘last resort’ antibiotic: colistin. Here Professor Timothy Walsh, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University, describes how the global community can learn from the positive steps taken by the Chinese Government.
Antibiotic resistance is really all about people and society. We often blame antimicrobial resistance on the bug and how resistance can travel from one bug to another. But different sectors, for example farming, hospitals and communities, are all critically linked. [...]
Continue reading: Global action on antimicrobial resistance
19 May 2016
In a diagnosis of the global superbug threat today, economist Jim O’Neill includes a recommendation that doctors test patients to find out if their infection is bacterial before prescribing them antibiotics. MRC-funded researcher Dr Tariq Sadiq at St George’s Institute of Infection and Immunity writes here about his research to develop better diagnostic tests that will help us get these results faster so we can make better use of antibiotics. Dr Sadiq explains the need to improve diagnostics in clinics and out in hard-to-reach populations around the world to combat widespread antimicrobial resistance.
Medical advances undermined
How have we been able to make so many advances in medicine? What’s made us so successful at treating cancer and performing heart surgery? Our ability to manage one of their most serious consequences: infection.
Antibiotic resistance undermines those advances and could mean infections that we thought we had defeated, become untreatable. Global deaths from drug-resistant infections are likely to continue to increase over the coming years if we don’t find new ways to tackle them, perhaps reaching 10 million by 2050, if there is no effective action. It is estimated that nearly half of them will occur in Asia. [...]
Continue reading: Testing times for antimicrobial resistance
23 Mar 2016
Researchers at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL are working on projects to tackle different forms of tuberculosis (TB) with shorter treatment programmes. The STREAM project is looking at multidrug-resistant TB, the TRUNCATE project is looking at drug sensitive TB, and the SHINE project is investigating new, shorter treatments for children with TB.
Tuberculosis kills three people every minute. Treatment invariably involves a long course of drugs and the burden of disease falls hardest on low-income countries with stretched health systems. Three projects are running at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit to investigate the efficacy of shorter courses of drugs in some of the countries worst affected by TB. [...]
Continue reading: World TB Day 2016: Treating TB faster
16 Nov 2015
Doctors could soon be getting the green light to prescribe antibiotics with a light-up dressing that indicates whether burns are infected or not. If successful, use of the dressing should reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics and therefore antibiotic resistance, and make life a little easier for patients.
The dressing responding to the presence of bacterial toxins (Image: University of Bath)
It has the air of a futuristic Star Trek-style medical device – a dressing which can tell you if a wound is infected. But rather than being confined to television screens, this bandage could be in hospitals in a few short years.
And as well as its glow-in-the-dark appeal, the dressing has a much more serious aim – to reduce the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics to burns patients who don’t actually need them.
At the moment it can take up to two days to tell if a patient who is showing symptoms of infection actually has an infected burn. This means that doctors often end up prescribing antibiotics as a precaution – not good at a time when we should be reducing the overall use of antibiotics, particularly in people who do not have an infection. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: The ‘smart’ dressing aiming to tackle antimicrobial resistance
23 Oct 2015
A report published by today by the Jim O’Neill Review, calls for new rapid diagnostics to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics and tackle superbugs. Here Dr Des Walsh, our Head of Infections and Immunity, describes efforts by MRC researchers to reduce the prescribing of antibiotics by making some apps for that.
The IAPP app
Barely a week goes by without the global concern of antimicrobial resistance rearing its head in the media. The increasing problem of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi evolving and becoming resistant to antimicrobial treatments is as old as our ability to fight them. And yet, a solution remains elusive.
MRC researchers are both helping to better understand microorganisms to identify their weaknesses, and developing alternative treatments such as vaccines and bacteria-eating viruses.
They are also working hard to ensure that the dawn of a post-antibiotic world never arrives by focussing on arming doctors with the right tools to diagnose when antibiotics are and aren’t necessary. [...]
Continue reading: Diagnostic tools for superbugs… There’s an app for that
18 Jun 2015
You might have seen in the news today that for the first time a strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium, MRSA, has been found in sausages and minced pork bought from supermarkets. So is this the first sign of a food safety crisis? Emphatically not, says our Head of Infections and Immunity, Dr Desmond Walsh, but it does show how critical it is to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance on all fronts.
Is MRSA running rampant in our meat products?
No, that’s not a conclusion that this study supports. The researchers, funded by the MRC and based at the University of Cambridge, bought and analysed a total of 103 pre-packaged fresh pork and chicken products from supermarkets in five different locations across in England. All the packages were labelled as coming from UK farms.
The researchers found that two of the pork samples – one from sausages, one from minced pork – tested positive for MRSA.
As the tests use a highly sensitive method of detection of bacterial contamination, the numbers of MRSA bacteria present may be low. We also don’t know that the MRSA contamination definitely came from UK meat, as there’s no guarantee that the meat packing plants that handled the meat don’t also handle imported meat. [...]
Continue reading: MRSA in sausages: getting to the meat of the matter