Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Antimicrobial resistance in the real world

The aim of this cross-council initiative is to address one of the key gaps in our understanding of the role of the outdoor and host environments in antimicrobial resistance in the real world.

£3.5 million (NERC)
2015 to 2020
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), on behalf of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) councils

The scope and what we're doing

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognised as one of the most important global issues for human and animal health in terms of societal impact. One of the key gaps in our understanding of AMR is the role of the outdoor and host environments. To address this, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is leading a funding opportunity on ‘AMR in the real world’ on behalf of the AMR Cross-Council Initiative. This programme is part of UKRI’s cross-council initiative on fighting AMR.

Research funded under the programme will examine the role of the environment and host microbiome in influencing the evolution, acquisition and spread of antibacterial resistance, and as a reservoir for resistance.

The focus will be antibacterials and resistant bacteria or resistance genes, of relevance to bacteria of clinical and veterinary importance. Research will be supported in the agricultural, aquaculture, wastewater and natural environments (freshwater, marine, soil, air and their interfaces), and will also include elements of the way people and communities interact with the environment.

The AMR cross-council initiative is led by the Medical Research Council (MRC) on behalf of the research councils and will be delivered through a thematic approach, with research to be commissioned under four themes:

  1. Understanding resistant bacteria
  2. Accelerating therapeutic and diagnostics development
  3. Understanding the real world interactions
  4. Behaviour within and beyond the healthcare setting

This programme, ‘AMR in the real world’, falls under the third theme of the AMR cross-council initiative – Understanding the real world interactions.

The theme aims to address the need for a greater understanding of the role of the bacterial environment, defined in the broad sense, in influencing the evolution, acquisition and spread of antibacterial resistance, and as a reservoir of resistance.

Why we're doing it

There are increasing numbers of resistant infections, many existing antimicrobials are becoming less effective, and multidrug-resistant bacteria are rapidly spreading. This means we could be close to a reality where we are unable to prevent or treat everyday infections and diseases. There is also a lack of significant commercial innovation in antimicrobials.

Part of the research challenge must therefore be to conserve the antimicrobials we have left, by understanding and mitigating the development of resistance. To develop a complete picture we need to understand the role of the outdoor and host environments in AMR, an area where there has been little coordinated research effort to date.

The government published a five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy (2013 to 2018) that sets out the actions and research needed to tackle AMR. Both the government’s AMR strategy and the Science and Technology Select Committee’s recent report on ensuring access to working antimicrobials, have highlighted the need to understand AMR in the real world, and the select committee’s report recommends, “a research programme that will recruit expertise across the UK to fill the knowledge gaps on how antimicrobial resistance exists and may be transmitted via environmental routes”.

In parallel with this, the AMR funders’ forum (AMRFF) and the AMR cross-council initiative have been created specifically to enable the interdisciplinary research required to address the issue of AMR.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Who to contact

Lisa Hole

Telephone: 07738 121171

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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