£2.9m awarded to tackle antibacterial resistance in Thailand

An inter-disciplinary research consortium led by the University of Bristol has won a £2.9m award from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to help tackle the growing incidence of antibacterial resistance in Thailand.

Antimicrobial resistance and specifically antibacterial (antibiotic) resistance (ABR) is a growing threat to human health and economic development across the globe. In Thailand antibacterial resistance was estimated to cause thirty eight thousand deaths and cause an economic loss of US$1.2bn in 2010.

The University of Bristol reports the new study aims to identify why antibacterial resistance is such a problem in Thailand, and what can be done about it. The study will focus on two species of bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae (Kp) and Escherichia coli (Ec). They are carried in the intestines of humans and animals and commonly contaminate the environment. They move between these sites and are the cause of a large proportion of bacterial infections worldwide, including serious infections with high mortality rates. Increasingly, both species of bacteria are showing resistance to antibacterial drugs and they are recognised by the World Health Organisation as being amongst the highest priority pathogens globally, for which new antibiotics are urgently needed.

Researchers will study whether Ec and Kp transmit between animals and people directly or via the environment in Thailand, and how farm management practices, chemical pollution from agriculture and industry, and human behaviours around food preparation and antibiotic use influence transmission. By considering chemical, environmental, microbiological and socioeconomic factors that increase antibacterial resistance, the study aims to build a holistic picture of antibacterial resistance drivers in Thailand. It is intended that the findings can be used to aid the Thai people by suggesting changes that can be made to reduce, or at least slow down the rise of antibacterial resistance.

The study site will cover an area measuring 80×80 km in central and west Thailand. This area allows multiple sites including rivers, factories, animal farms, rice fields, fruit orchards, healthcare facilities and human communities to be considered in the study. The majority of sample and data collection will be performed by researchers from Chulabhorn Research Institute and Mahidol University in Thailand. Data analysis and intervention modelling will be led by researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The consortium will engage closely with Thailand’s National Strategic Plan on ABR, which aims to reduce antibacterial resistance and improve human health in Thailand.

Principal Investigator, Dr Matthew Avison from the University of Bristol’s School of Cellular Molecular Medicine, said “This is a challenging, ambitious and exciting project. Consortium members from Thailand and the UK will come together and build on existing strengths in ABR research. We are provided with a wonderful opportunity to improve global health and we look forward to working together.”

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