Following the award of our EVAL-FARMS AMR grant, I have built a lego slurry tank. The tank features a curved-wall construction, with the word ‘Slurry’ on the side, control panel and platform with mini-figure taking a sample with a bucket. I have then taken some artistic license with the laboratory for analysis, with samples in flasks. Have added some mini-figures doing social research, and even a nod to some future research outside the EVAL-FARMS grant, with a mini-figure trying to catch some local ‘wildlife’. Slightly low quality images as I have had to use my iPad.
View of the lab:
View of the word:
And the real thing, complete with real person taking a sample with a bucket.
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.
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!