University of BristolWorking with farmers locally and globally to fight antimicrobial resistance

Working with farmers locally and globally to fight antimicrobial resistance

Scientists from the University of Bristol, led by Professors Matthew Avison and Kirsten Reyher are working with farmers to understand and fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The One Health Selection and Transmission of Antimicrobial Resistance (OH-STAR) study involves interdisciplinary research that considers the interactions between humans, animals, and the environment to investigate how AMR is acquired and spread.

The research team has conducted the most extensive farm survey of its kind, gathering over 4,500 samples of Escherichia coli from 53 dairy farms monthly over two years. Their findings show that resistant bacteria in humans are mainly spread by humans rather than cows. They also discovered that temperature is significantly associated with AMR on farms, although there is no clear-cut association with antimicrobial medicine usage. The work of the team has impacted farming management and policy-making both locally and globally.

International implementation

The multidisciplinary approach of the OH-STAR study was also adopted in the One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand (OH-DART) study, which examines the drivers of AMR in poultry, aquaculture, and the human community. The Bristol team is working with colleagues at the Universities of Exeter and Bath, Mahidol University, Chulabhorn Research Institute, and the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology on this work, which is adapted to align with Thailand's 5-year national plan on AMR reduction.

In Argentina, Bristol’s researchers are taking a similar approach to investigate drivers of AMR in dairy and pig farms through the FARMS-SAFE project. The project will focus on key risk areas such as animal disease, husbandry practices, farm waste management, and regulatory capacity, aim to generate valuable insights, inform policy-making, establish surveillance structures, and train researchers for continued monitoring and risk reduction efforts.

Encouraging responsible use of antimicrobials

Bristol’s AMR research assists farmers and the wider community in recognizing and addressing areas that contribute to AMR. These studies encourage farmers to implement gradual modifications in their farming practices and animal care.

The aim of these projects is not to eliminate all use of antimicrobials in farm animals but to encourage responsible use of them for the good of animals and humans, and to help veterinarians and famers to gain confidence in doing things differently. Calculating and quantifying usage of antimicrobials as per these studies has proved successful, and the research also found the benchmarking of farmers’ antimicrobial use provides a sense of competition which also helps to drive best practice. 

The findings have influenced farming management and policy-making both locally and globally, and in an era of rampant misinformation and conspiracy theories, the complex data from these studies can be a welcome antidote against inaccurate rhetoric.

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Tackling the global challenge posed by AMR
The AMR research community at Bristol is a wide-reaching network championing interdisciplinary approaches to tackling AMR, spanning all of our faculties and incorporating 5 research institutes. Find out more about our latest AMR research projects

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