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Matt Harwood



School of Life Sciences
University of Warwick

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Research Interests

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a critical global threat but the mechanisms behind the rapid dissemination in an environmental context remain largely unexplored, particularly UK river systems. The focus of my work is to explore the effects of different environmental pressures on the movement of mobile genetic elements that harbour potential resistance genes between clinically-relevant pathogens and the indigenous riverine microcommunity.

This investigation aims to characterise the effects of persistent antibiotic residues on gene transfer within a riverine microcommunity. Antibiotic residues present in UK freshwater are the result of anthropogenic pollution and some classes can be resilient to rapid degradation and can persist, unaltered. In this study, a series of microcosms using river water and sediment have been established in order to emulate a natural riverine ecosystem that can be manipulated and analysed. Whilst in vitro simulations are useful in the study of AMR, the changeability of interactions and antimicrobial bioavailability varies greatly in situ and, as a result, observations made in a laboratory may not match those present in nature.

Environmental strains of Escherichia coli present in a UK river have been chosen as a proxy for mobile gene transfer between the indigenous community as these environmental organisms (unlike laboratory strains) are evolutionarily adapted to this particular niche and will not struggle to prosper in a growth environment limited in sources of easily-accessible carbon and high competition.