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World antibiotic resistance day - 18 November

16 November 2017

The Health Research Board has invested €740,000 in two Irish research projects that look at how antibiotic resistance might be influenced by the food supply chain. The funding is part of a joint EU and international research collaboration to tackle the global challenge of antibiotic resistance.

Ireland has a relatively high rate of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in human health compared to most European countries and Ireland ranks third highest in the EU for antibiotic use*. 

According to Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board (HRB),

'Antimicrobial resistance is a global challenge which is beyond the capability of any one country to solve'.

Irish researchers based at Teagasc, Maynooth University, and the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork secured €740,000 out of the €12 million EU funding pot** from across 26 countries. Their projects which take a 'One Health' approach, will look at food chain related approaches to help tackle AMR in animal husbandry and plants.

The concept of 'One Health' recognizes that the health of humans, animals and the environment are interconnected. It involves applying a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach to address potential or existing risks that originate at the animal-human-environment interface.

'This investment is a positive step to support Irish projects that take a 'One Health' approach to antibiotic resistance', adds Dr O'Driscoll. 'This is somewhat new territory for the HRB, but an approach which has been requested from the research community itself'.

The successful projects are:

  1. Preventing transmission of MRSA from livestock to humans through competitive exclusion. This project will use competition amongst bacteria as a means of preventing transmission of MRSA from the food chain to humans. The Irish research components will be led by Marcus Claesson, APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork and Peadar Lawlor, Teagasc.
  2. Intervention of antimicrobial resistance transfer into the food chain. This project will look at the use of chicken and pig manure as fertiliser, and investigate ways to minimise the threat of AMR at the very start of the food chain. The Irish research components will be led Fiona Walsh, Maynooth University and Fiona Brennan, Teagasc.

The JPIAMR press release about the overall call results is available at:

You can listen to Maryn McKenna, who spoke in the HRB Red Alert public lecture series in the Science Gallery in 2016 about the global impacts of antibiotic resistance. Her TED talk at the link below overlaps with the content of that lecture.

HRB-funded researcher Professor James O'Gara has made important discoveries that could improve treatment of  MRSA infections. You can watch a video on the HRB You Tube channel of James explaining some of his findings at the second link.  And read about his more recent discoveries in 'Good drugs for bad bugs' in the third link. 

JPIAMR have also announced some advance details of their next call, which will open in January 2018. You can read more at the link below.

* Ireland’s usage, 44%, EU average usage, 34%.

**In support of research objectives in Ireland's National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2017-2020, the HRB is part of the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR). JPIs are designed to maximise use of Europe’s public R&D resources and to tackle common European challenges more effectively in a number of key areas.

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