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New research explores antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters

Work by Hutton and Heriot-Watt researchers, funded by Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters, considered the available information on antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters and identified emerging monitoring approaches and potential technological solutions

Research by James Hutton Institute and Heriot-Watt University scientists has carried out the first review of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Scotland’s waters.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, are a major source of concern for public health. According to the World Health Organisation, new resistance mechanisms continue to emerge and spread globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases and endangering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.

Work by Hutton and Heriot-Watt researchers, funded by Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters, considered the available information on antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters and identified emerging monitoring approaches and potential technological solutions for detecting and tackling antimicrobial resistance.

Findings will help policymakers develop solutions for detecting, monitoring and reducing antimicrobial resistance in Scottish waters.

Dr Lisa Avery, a senior environmental microbiologist at the James Hutton Institute’s Environmental and Biochemical Sciences department and co-author of the study, said: “So far, there has not been enough monitoring of antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters to know how widespread or how concentrated the levels of resistant microbes, genes and resistance-driving chemicals are.

“Globally, lots of different methods are used for detecting resistance. The most common ones are to detect antibiotic resistant bacteria by culturing (growing) them and using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – based methods to detect specific resistance genes. Our study found no consensus on the best detection method.”

Dr Helen Bridle, Associate Professor at the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering of Heriot-Watt University added: “A diversity of approaches is needed for research purposes.

“However, if we can develop some guidelines so that those researching or monitoring resistance in waters are encouraged to use at least one or two of the same approaches across all of the different studies, this would help in understanding antimicrobial resistance and how it is linked across humans, animals and the environment.”

At a recent meeting of the Scottish Parliament, Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, said: “We need to recognise that antimicrobial resistance does not affect only humans. Bacteria with the potential to become resistant to antibiotics exist in animals and in the environment. For that reason, we require a one health approach to the threat that recognises that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment.”

The researchers conclude that agreement across methodological approaches and guidance would support technology developers to develop and validate new approaches for detecting antimicrobial resistance, as most current methods are developed for the clinical, rather than environmental field.

It’s hoped that treatment technologies can remove antimicrobial resistance, but cost-benefit analyses are needed to compare different treatment and mitigation strategies.

A spokesperson from SEPA commented: “SEPA welcomes the publication of the Centre of Expertise for Waters’ (CREW) policy briefing, which provides valuable insights to better understanding the risks of AMR in Scotland’s water environment. There are many sectors and activities we regulate that have the potential to exacerbate the spread of AMR through the environment, and we are committed to playing our role in understanding and helping to address the issue”.

“Through research and multi-agency collaboration we are working to ensure that interventions are developed and implemented in a way that recognises how the health of people is closely and inextricably linked to the health of animals and our shared environment. This includes our involvement in key groups such as the One Heath Breakthrough Partnership and the Scottish One Health National AMR Action Plan Group.”

The policy outputs, including a policy note (Antimicrobial resistance in Scotland’s waters) and policy brief (Technologies for monitoring and treatment of antimicrobial resistance in water), are both available from the CREW website.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/new-research-explores-antimicrobial-resistance-scotland%E2%80%99s-waters on 25/06/22 01:51:09 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.