Skip to main content

Antibacterial resistance development in agriculture and transmission on surfaces

Principal Supervisor: Dr Felicity de Cogan, Institute of Microbiology and Infection

Non-academic partner: NitroPep

Project Title: Antibacterial resistance development in agriculture and transmission on surfaces

University of registration: University of Birmingham

BBSRC Research Priority Area: Food Security

Project outline:

The increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a recognised global problem. Current forecasts project that by 2050, it will have led to 10 million preventable deaths, and cost the global economy in excess of £66 trillion. Research and development across different sectors will be key in tackling this problem.

This project will investigate the potential for using antibacterial surfaces in agricultural settings, building on successful studies which have already been done in collaboration with the NHS. The novel technology being studied consists of antibacterial peptides coupled chemically to surfaces, which renders them much less susceptible to bacterial colonisation, and hence helps break the chain of transmission which is a key factor in the spread of AMR. In both lab-based and “real world” studies, such surfaces have proven highly effective at decreasing the spread of bacteria. The current project will seek to explore this approach in agricultural settings, and will also study the mechanisms of killing and examine whether or not the emergence of resistance is likely to be a problem. It is generally recognised that overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is a major contributor to the evolution and spread of AMR, and even though legislation is beginning to restrict some of this overuse, there are still major concerns about misuse and about high levels of antibiotics in farm run-off selecting for resistant organisms. This project therefore addresses several BBSRC strategic research priorities including animal health, combating antimicrobial resistance and technology development for the biosciences.

In this project, we will:

  • collect samples from agricultural settings such as farms and dairies. These test sites have already been identified and this application is being supported by the farmers in question.
  • determine a ‘pathway of transmission’ around an area to see where surfaces are playing a key role in infection. Bacteria will be identified using MALDI. Where species are found on multiple surfaces whole genome sequencing will be used to determine if they are identical.
  • carry out laboratory testing to determine if antibacterial surfaces are effective against these pathogens.
  • install antibacterial surfaces at places identified for high transmission and monitor bacteria colonisation rates and animal infection rates.
  • study mechanisms of killing in different agricultural pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Brucella), using Tn-seq libraries to identify the affected biological pathways
  • use lab-based evolution by iterative exposures to antibacterial surfaces to investigate whether resistance can evolve, and if so determine the key genes by whole genome sequencing.

Closing date for applications: 7th January 2018

Interview dates: February 2018 TBC

Check eligibilty and apply