Bacterial resistance and its impact on health

Published on: 13 April 2016

Vital research into how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics is being conducted by Dr William Gaze, Senior Lecturer at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

Antimicrobial resistance has been defined as one of the major health issues of the twenty-first century. This growing resistance to antibiotics will enable currently common and treatable infections to become life threatening.

This highly resistant bacteria forms in reservoirs and finds its way into rivers, oceans and the wildlife and people who come into contact with them.

With Natural Enviroment Research Council (NERC) funding Dr Gaze and his team looked into the processes that go on in river systems in more detail, and studied the diversity of resistance genes. They have also looked at exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria in coastal bathing waters.

This research has informed advice to the government on their enquiry into antibiotic resistance including the antibiotic resistance review commissioned by David Cameron.

Dr Gaze said: “We’re getting to a point now where some bacteria are resistant to nearly all antibiotics, and some actually are resistant to all of the drugs that we have to treat infection.”

“If we can show that these antibiotics do drive evolutionary resistance at environmental concentrations, that may inform future versions of the water framework directive and we're hoping that this will lead to a more international approach to solving this major issue.”

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