India-UK experts to study spread of antimicrobial resistance in Indian waterways

August 6, 2020 0 By FM

A research programme led by experts at the University of Birmingham in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad will soon investigate the impact of India’s waterways on the rising antimicrobial resistance.The team would probe how releasing antibiotics from antibiotic manufacturing industries into the waterways of India has an impact on the spread of potentially fatal drug-resistant infections in the country.

An estimated 58,000 infants die in India every year from superbug infections passed on from their mothers, whilst drug-resistant pathogens cause between 28,000 to 38,000 extra deaths in the European Union every year.
Supported by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the cross-disciplinary team includes researchers from Newcastle University, the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, IIT Gandhinagar and IIT Madras.

The researchers will sample and model two contrasting river networks in India – the Musi river in Hyderabad, which has high concentrations of antibiotics released from production facilities, and the less polluted Adyar river in Chennai.

The team aims to learn how far resistant bacteria travel before they die or are eaten by other organisms in a unique combination of experiments, field sampling and mathematical modelling of resistance dynamics and water flows.

UK project lead Dr Jan Kreft, from the University of Birmingham, commented: “We don’t know how quickly antibiotics are degraded in the environment and how much they are diluted by rainfall and by entering larger rivers.”

“In our AMRflows project, we will learn how antibiotics from manufacturing and the resistant bacteria they select will flow through river networks and how far they can be transported in rivers, from where they can spread onto fields and into communities during floods – allowing us to make a quantitative risk assessment to help create environmental standards for safe concentrations of antibiotics in water bodies.”

The study would further combine researches at various scales, ranging from the genetics of resistance gene exchange to metagenomics to micro- and macro-scale numerical modelling said the team.

The scientific advances will also allow the team to compare the effectiveness of different interventions such as separate treatment of waste streams from the manufacturing of antibiotics, decentralised sewage treatment or containment reservoirs.

The project is part of £8 million package of UK-India government-backed research aimed at deepening existing scientific research collaboration with five new programmes to tackle anti-microbial resistance (AMR) that could lead to important advances in the global fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and genes.