The Medical Research Council (MRC) will lead an initiative of seven research councils, backed by eight government bodies and the Wellcome Trust, to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on all fronts. The seven research councils are the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, MRC, Natural Environment Research Council and Science and Technology Facilities Council.
The seven will collaborate on the ever-growing problem of antimicrobial resistance. The cross-council AMR initiative will coordinate the work of medical researchers, biologists, engineers, vets, economists, social scientists, mathematicians and designers in a multi-pronged approach to address all aspects of the multi-faceted problem.
The MRC has calculated in the U.K. alone, $470 million has been spent on researching the problem since 2007. Yet, to date, no effective solutions have been found and it has been estimated that current antibiotics will be all but useless within the next two decades. A recent Science and Technology Committee report on antimicrobials stated collaboration among different areas of research is paramount in tackling AMR.
The problem of AMR extends beyond human health. Animals, particularly livestock, are increasingly being infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Such bacteria are found in varied environments, from fields and rivers to hospitals or the kitchen sink, but little is known about how human and animal AMR are related. The initiative will work to identify common characteristics of AMR in both humans and in farm and wild animals in order to find new drugs in a pipeline that has all but dried up.
At the same time, scientists will be investigating how to track the extent of AMR in different environments (the sea, rivers, air, soil and in organisms, as well as in food, homes and hospitals.) Researchers funded by the Natural Environment Research Council have revealed the first finding of an imipenam-resistant E. coli in a U.K. river, a broad spectrum antibiotic that’s often used when other antibiotics don’t work.
Science Minister Greg Clark said, “This unique collaboration involving all seven research councils will help to drive forward important advances in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. The united strategy will provide a more coordinated approach to research gathering by bringing together leading cross-industry experts against what is one of today’s greatest scientific problems.”
Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, said, “Researchers have been waging a war on AMR for decades but up until now we’ve had no war cabinet to coordinate research on all fronts. This is about tackling the problem at every level and in every environment—from labs to livestock, from finding new diagnostic tools to educating professionals and the public. One hundred years ago, 25% of all deaths were due to bacterial infection. We cannot return to those days.”
Two calls for research proposals now are open. The deadline is Sept. 2.