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Insight blog: Posts tagged with antimicrobial resistance

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

From deep-sea sponges to dragonfly wings: Superbug research from unexpected places

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

Antimicrobial resistance in Thailand: taking a holistic approach

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

Ta Chin River [...]

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Superbugs vs Superheroes: Getting creative with antimicrobial resistance

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.

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). [...]

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Antibiotic resistance: how we’ll beat it together

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. [...]

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Five reasons why we study fungal disease

9 Oct 2017

To improve the outlook for patients with life-threatening fungal disease, we need a coordinated approach to tackle the infections. That’s why we set up the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM) with the University of Aberdeen last year. Here Masters students Joanne Calley, Emily Speakman, Catherine Mark and Alexander Currie share five reasons why they chose to study fungi and are excited to be working at the forefront of fungal diseases research.

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Global action on antimicrobial resistance

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.

Board game with path on the cityAntibiotic 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. [...]

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Tackling drug resistance, one context at a time

15 Nov 2016


Dr Helen Lambert. Photo credit: Helen Lambert

To tackle growing numbers of drug-resistant infections we can’t apply the same ideas to every situation. Dr Helen Lambert, Reader in Medical Anthropology at the University of Bristol, explains why tailoring our tactics to the local context is vital in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

In many parts of the world you can buy antibiotics over the counter without a prescription. It’s a practical way to obtain life-saving drugs where quality medical care is inaccessible.

In Europe we might effectively slow the spread of drug-resistant infections by reducing antibiotic prescribing and stopping access to over-the-counter antibiotics. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution everywhere.  [...]

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Testing times for 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.

Dr Tariq Sadiq in his lab

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. [...]

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World TB Day 2016: Treating TB faster

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.   

Infograohic: TB kills three people a minute, treatment takes two years for drug resistant strains, trials will determine whether shorter treatments are as effective which could mean faster recovery and less resistance.
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. [...]

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Behind the picture: our gorgeous gut flora

11 Mar 2016

Who knew we had such pretty guts? Dr Nicola Fawcett, medic and researcher at the University of Oxford, produced these images in collaboration with photographer Chris Wood to show the importance of bacteria for our health and the issue of antimicrobial resistance. The botanical images are made from common bacteria taken from the gut and stamped in decorative patterns onto agar jelly before leaving them to grow overnight. The photographs are on display at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford until 14 May 2016.

These pictures and captions were originally published on the University of Oxford’s Modernising Medical Microbiology site. Copyright: Chris Wood and Nicola Fawcett, Modernising Medical Microbiology under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

We often talk about bacteria as harmful things. Images in the media, advertising, even doctors and scientists, portray a healthy, desirable world as one free of bacteria: sterile, washed and scrubbed clean.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that this isn’t true. [...]

Continue reading: Behind the picture: our gorgeous gut flora