A study to investigate the effect of environmental factors on antibiotic resistance

Environmental factors, including pollution, that may help ‘superbugs’ become resistant to antibiotics have been mapped out by the University of Surrey. The findings will help address this serious public health problem by identifying emerging trends and areas that require further research.

During this new eighteen-month study, funded by the One Health European Joint Project, Surrey researchers will embark on work to catalog evidence of the effects of environmental factors on antibiotic resistance.

The World Health Organization has declared antimicrobial resistance one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. Its risk cannot be underestimated as it limits treatment options for those who need it most and means that some infections can become uncontrollable.”

Dr Giovanni Lo Iacono, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Surrey

Antibiotic resistance, a form of broader antimicrobial resistance, is the ability of bacteria to tolerate antibiotics and has led to an increase in treatment failure for common infections. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics was previously thought to be the sole cause of this threat. However, the role of environmental factors such as water or soil contamination with antibiotics, which have the potential to affect the food chain, is now being recognized.

To gather vital information, researchers will examine all scientific evidence on the topic published from 1990 to the present day. This evidence will include environmental samples reported in the literature, collected from natural spaces (grasslands, lakes, and parks), semi-natural spaces (farmlands), green infrastructure (gardens and parks) and former industrial sites that are no longer used for industry. purposes.

The information collected will be presented in a systematic evidence map that will help identify settings and environments in which research activity on antibiotic resistance is scarce and categorize the research topics covered to identify any unexamined gaps.

Dr Brian Gardner, Research Fellow in Computational Biology at the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine, said:

“A systematic evidence map is an ideal tool for addressing such a broad research question, especially when the evidence is so diverse. The work we are doing in developing a very rigorous and robust protocol is critical.”

Dr Inaki Deza Cruz, Lecturer in Veterinary Public Health at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey, added:

“We’re not winning the battle against antibiotic resistance; that’s obvious. To win, we need to fill in the gaps in our knowledge and learn more about the environmental factors that influence antibiotic resistance. The only way to do that is by defining what we already know so we can start to Discover more, which will help us win this fight.”

The study was published by the International Environment Foundation.


Journal reference:

Gardner, b. et al. (2022) Evidence mapping of the effects of environmental factors on the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in the non-built environment: a protocol for a systematic evidence map. international environment. doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2022.107707.

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