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Warwick PhD programme aims to combat the misuse of antibiotics

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With the discovery of antibiotics, medicine took a huge leap forward. But after years of antibiotic misuse in both humans and animal husbandry, a global concern has arisen over the threat that is antimicrobial resistance. This has the potential to take us back to the time before the Second World War, where a common cold could be fatal.

A new class of antibiotics is essential to combat the “superbugs” which have developed over the years as a result of natural selection and mutations. These mutations can render antibiotics ineffective and it is becoming significantly harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and blood poisoning through the use of antibiotics. The extensive misuse of antibiotics has led to a proliferation of this resistance.

It is becoming significantly harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and blood poisoning…

The use of antimicrobial medication has been used in the agricultural and food industry for many years, and has contributed to this growing problem. Antibiotics are used to enhance animal growth and treat diseases in cattle, and is linked to the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock environments as well as in meat sold to the public. Governments and professional entities have been urged to limit the use of all antibiotics.

And so, it comes as no surprise that numerous companies and countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland have promised to invest millions into this sphere of research. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pleaded with health care professionals to think twice before prescribing antibiotics and insist that stricter guidelines be placed on antimicrobial usage in both the medical and animal husbandry industries. Moreover, they have stated that good personal and food hygiene as well as vaccinations are imperative, and new prescription policies need to be implemented.

The need to slow down the rapid resistance and develop new treatments to fight infections is of critical importance…

A new scheme funded by the Medical Research Foundation is determined to play its role in this, by investing £2.85 million in a new PhD Training Programme. Owing to the fact that the field is somewhat bereft of new researchers, it is critical to establish a proactive body of new scientists specialising in antimicrobial resistance. The programme is part-led by the University of Warwick.

The programme will fully fund eighteen PhD programmes for four years at sixteen participating universities across the UK. The need to slow down the rapid resistance and develop new treatments to fight infections is of critical importance. “Antimicrobial resistance is rapidly becoming one of the greatest threats to human life”, Professor Chris Dawson, Professor of Microbiological from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who helped to set up the scheme, expressed. The university, with its world-class research centre in this area, is more than willing to do its part.

It is critical to establish a proactive body of new scientists specialising in antimicrobial resistance…

Dr Matthew Avison, the academic lead for the training programme, is adamant that this “is a fight we must win”. With grit and determination and perhaps a bit of luck, we can pull our extensive resources together and unite in this fight against the superbugs which have the potential to undo the progress that medicine has accomplished thus far. The WHO is concerned, and rightly so, as it claims that, “without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

 

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