Last night I had the enormous privilege of being on a panel following Lord Jim O’Neill’s lecture on AMR as part of the University of Nottingham’s Chancellor’s Lecture series.
It was a real coup for the university to have Jim O’Neill speak. It was a great event – well attended by alumni and many other’s. The lecture was brilliant: O’Neill is a very engaging speaker and spoke with confidence and passion on the findings of his report. He mainly focussed on the ten point plan:
It was especially interesting seeing AMR from the perspective of an economist: not just in quantifying the problem in monetary terms (his argument that $40B spend will save $100T costs is compelling) but also how he breaks down the solutions into ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ side solutions and especially his emphasis on the importance of reducing demand for antibiotics through 6 of his points. (I’m not sure where our emphasis on waste management fits into that – but that is another matter – and actually having an economist (Steve Ramsden) on our project also helps framing it).
Professor Liz Sockett kindly asked me to serve on the panel (along side Dr Mat Diggle from EmPath) – this was a new experience for me – I was a little nervous – but the questions were good and interesting. The first couple of questions were more clinically focussed and answered by Liz and Mat. A question came up about how we prevent rapid spread of resistance to any new antibiotics we might discover. Mat gave a good answer from a clinical perspective, and I was able to add that there would need to be very wise use (if at all) of any new clinically important antibiotics in veterinary use. (To be fair, that point is made in the O’Neill report anyway!) And then got a question direct to me about agricultural waste management practises in developing countries. This was a nice one – as I have recently visited China and then had visitors from South Africa. So I was able to speak about the challenges of AMR from pig farming in China – the Chinese government are very committed to environmental research and China has a very well-funded research programme; South Africa is also very interesting because there is a mix of modern farming where the challenge of reducing antibiotic use is similar to in the UK, and then traditional subsistence farming, where nutrition is the biggest challenge, and the antibiotic challenge is more about access to antibiotics rather than use reduction.
After the talk, many interesting people came to speak with me, which was really nice, while Professor Christine Dodd looked after our stand and she also received many questions.
Official photographs will follow. The photograph at the top is thanks to Adam Roberts (from his twitter feed).
We are now advertising the next postdoctoral job for the EVAL-FARMS project. This is a part time role (3 days/week) for three years.
Sociology & Social Policy
||£26,052 to £38,183 per annum, pro rata depending on skills and experience (minimum £29301 with relevant PhD). Salary progression beyond this scale is subject to performance
||Friday 02 December 2016
We are seeking an excellent researcher in Science and Technology Studies.
The post-holder will conduct qualitative ethnographic work and interviews on social and cultural aspects of knowledge on antimicrobial resistance in laboratory and farm settings, with the University of Nottingham, UK as the main focus.
Applicants must have a PhD (or be near to completion) in science and technology studies (STS), human geography or related field, including postgraduate training in social science research methods, or have equivalent relevant knowledge, skills and experience. You must be able to engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including scientists and farmers, as you would be part of a highly multidisciplinary team. Excellent oral and written English language skills are essential. Applicants must be highly motivated, ambitious and have a proven track record of timely research publications (from PhD or beyond).
The post is funded by the NERC EVAL-FARMS project (Evaluating the Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Agricultural Manures and Slurries), and will be jointly supervised by the School of Sociology and Social Policy (Institute for Science and Society/ISS) and the School of Geography.
The Associate/Fellow will be primarily located in the School of Biosciences and expect to be physically present on the Sutton Bonington campus, where the scientific work in EVAL-FARMS will be carried out. The fellow will spend roughly a third of their time on University Park where the Schools of Sociology and Social Policy, and of Geography are located.
Informal enquiries may be addressed to Sujatha Raman tel: 0115 846 7039 or email Sujatha.email@example.com. Please note that applications sent directly to this email address will not be accepted.
We are delighted that our second paper – and first modelling paper – on antimicrobial resistance in slurry has been pubished, also in FEMS Microbial Ecology.
Baker M, Hobman JL, Dodd CER, Ramsden SJ and Stekel DJ (2016). Mathematical modelling of antimicrobial resistance in agricultural waste highlights importance of gene transfer rate. FEMS Microbial Ecology DOI:10.1093/femsec/fiw040.
The work came from the very short post that Michelle spent with us – funded by pump prime money from the school. Both the experimental paper (led by Jon Hobman) and the modelling paper have been accepted for the Virtual Issue of FEMS Microbial Ecology: Environmental Dimension of Antibiotic Resistance associated with the EDAR 2015 conference we attended last year. These papers can show the value and importance of timely institutional pump prime support.
Antimicrobial resistance is of global concern. Most antimicrobial use is in agriculture; manures and slurry are especially important because they contain a mix of bacteria, including potential pathogens, antimicrobial resistance genes and antimicrobials. In many countries, manures and slurry are stored, especially over winter, before spreading onto fields as organic fertilizer. Thus these are a potential location for gene exchange and selection for resistance. We develop and analyze a mathematical model to quantify the spread of antimicrobial resistance in stored agricultural waste. We use parameters from a slurry tank on a UK dairy farm as an exemplar. We show that the spread of resistance depends in a subtle way on the rates of gene transfer and antibiotic inflow. If the gene transfer rate is high, then its reduction controls resistance, while cutting antibiotic inflow has little impact. If the gene transfer rate is low, then reducing antibiotic inflow controls resistance. Reducing length of storage can also control spread of resistance. Bacterial growth rate, fitness costs of carrying antimicrobial resistance and proportion of resistant bacteria in animal faeces have little impact on spread of resistance. Therefore effective treatment strategies depend critically on knowledge of gene transfer rates.
We are really very excited that our first paper on antimicrobial resistance in agriculture has been published. This is experimental work, carried out by Delveen Ibrahim in Jon Hobman and Chris Dodd’s laboratories, characterising AMR E. coli strains from the slurry tank of a dairy farm.
Ibrahim DR, Dodd CER, Stekel DJ, Ramsden SJ and Hobman JL (2016). Multi drug and extended spectrum beta-lactamase resistant Escherichia coli isolated from a dairy farm. FEMS Microbial Ecology DOI:10.1093/femsec/fiw013.
Escherichia coli strains were isolated from a single dairy farm as a sentinel organism for the persistence of antibiotic resistance genes in the farm environment. Selective microbiological media were used to isolate 126 E. coli isolates from slurry and faeces samples from different farm areas. Antibiotic resistance profiling for 17 antibiotics (seven antibiotic classes), showed 57.9% of the isolates were resistant to between 3 and 15 antibiotics. The highest frequency of resistance was to ampicillin (56.3%), and the lowest to imipenem (1.6%), which appeared to be an unstable phenotype and was subsequently lost. Extended spectrum beta-lactamase resistance (ESBL) was detected in 53 isolates and blaCTX-M, blaTEM and blaOXA genes were detected by PCR in twelve, four and two strains, respectively. Phenotypically most isolates showing resistance to cephalosporins were AmpC rather than ESBL, a number of isolates having both activities. Phenotypic resistance patterns suggested co-acquisition of some resistance genes within subsets of the isolates. Genotyping using ERIC PCR demonstrated these were not clonal, and therefore co-resistance may be associated with mobile genetic elements. These data show a snapshot of diverse resistance genes present in the E. coli population reservoir, including resistance to historically used antibiotics as well as cephalosporins in contemporary use.
Today we ran a successful antimicrobial resistance in agriculture (agri-AMR) at University of Nottingham’s annual public engagement activity, May Fest. The activity was fairly simple. The children were looking for bacteria in a “slurry tank”. The slurry tank was a ball pit with plastic balls and some (mostly relevant) giant microbes. One particularly special microbe is the plush GFP E. coli which my wife made which today was acting as a multi-resistant E. coli pathogen. The children were given lab coats, safety glasses and a fishing net, and had to collect samples from the tank to pass to our scientists for analysis. We used a light panel for that. Children were then awarded a prize and/or chocolate cow pats (Montezuma chocolate buttons).
We only ran it for two hours and were inundated from start to finish! We had 60 prizes and they all went. The children – including our own – clearly had a lot of fun! We also had some information sheets for the parents about the research that we (a very collective we) do that went down very well and sparked some interesting conversations.
Special thanks go to research students Ishan Ajmera and Sankalp Arya for helping out at the stand – they were awesome and I couldn’t have managed without them. Susie Lydon for arranging the stall and provision of ball-pit balls; Cath Rees for provision of giant microbes, SGM poster, safety glasses, adult lab coats and lots of great ideas; and my wife Di Levine for fishing nets and more great ideas; and my own children for their help and lively participation.
Action photograph showing the slurry tank and analysis of its content!