Researcher Receives Largest Single Funding Award from EPA for Antimicrobial Resistance Project

Dr Dearbháile Morris, Head of Discipline of Bacteriology, School of Medicine, NUI Galway.
Feb 12 2018 Posted: 15:24 GMT

Dr Dearbháile Morris from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway has received the largest single award of funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for her research examining the role the environment plays in the transmission of antimicrobial resistance.

The EPA awarded a total of €11.2 million to fund new environmental research projects with Dr Morris receiving the largest single award of €650,000 for her four year ‘AREST’ (Antimicrobial Resistance and the Environment – Sources, Persistence, Transmission and Risk Management) project.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (such as bacteria, viruses,   fungi and parasites) to change and stop the drugs used to treat infection (such as antibiotics) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance is recognised as one the greatest threats to human health. It is estimated that by 2050, unless action is taken, 10 million deaths per year will be attributable to antimicrobial resistance. There are several different types of antimicrobial resistant organisms such as methicillin resistant, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and carbapenemase producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), some of which are resistant to the last resort antibiotics. Such is the concern about the increase in the incidence of CPE that Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD declared it a public health emergency in 2017. The emergence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance is related to the use of antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial agents have been used for decades in humans and animals.

The ‘One-Health’ concept, a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care, recognises that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment. It is only recently that attention has been given to the impact that discharge of antimicrobial resistant organisms and of antimicrobials has on the environment. The environment is a key link between antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans, therefore it is imperative to adopt a holistic ‘One Health’ approach in trying to address the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The proposed research will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors (health, agriculture, industrial) and brings together key players in the area of antimicrobial resistance. This will embed the ‘One Health’ concept and build the capacity of Ireland’s research community to support Irelands National Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance.

Speaking about her award, Dr Dearbháile Morris, Head of Discipline of Bacteriology at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway, said: “I am very excited to receive this funding award and commend the EPA for recognising the importance of funding research in this area. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health. We are facing the very real possibility of entering an era where there are no useful antibiotics left to treat infection.

“We need to understand better what role the environment plays in the transmission and persistence of antimicrobial resistance. This four year research project will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors, and brings together a team of world renowned experts in the areas of human health, animal health, agriculture, the environment, geographical information systems, risk assessment, high throughput sequencing technologies and metagenomics.”

Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA, said: “The EPA is pleased to announce these awards under our Research Programme and to continue to support research and innovation in areas of environmental importance. The outputs from these projects will provide the foundation and evidence base for credible environmental decision-making into the future.”

The AREST project is being led by NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Danish Technical University, UCD, Teagasc and Maynooth University.


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