Students learn first-hand how scientists are combatting drug-resistant bacteria

As news broke that scientists had discovered a new antibiotic resistant bacterial strain in China, more than 70 academics and Roehampton students debated the issue during a conference at the University as part of European Antibiotic Awareness Day.

Posted: 1 December 2015

Statistics from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show around 25,000 people die annually in the EU because of antimicrobial resistance, and the conference agreed more needed to be done to alert the UK population to the issue.

Five leaders in the field of bacterial research presented their work to the conference and spoke on current issues and approaches to dealing with resistance. This provided the chance for Roehampton’s Life Sciences students to learn first-hand about the cutting edge research in this field.

  • Dr Sarah Furrows, Clinical Lead for Microbiology at Kingston Hospital, called for improved diagnostics to prevent patients being treated with the wrong drugs. Current methods take two days to identify the best treatment, increasing the chance of patients transmitting a pathogen within a healthcare unit.
  • Dr Adam Roberts, from University College London, highlighted a public awareness initiative he has developed called Swab and Send, where people can swab any kind of environments and send them to Dr Roberts’ lab were they are screened for new antibiotic-producing strains. 
  • Dr David Wareham, from Queen Mary University of London focused on the fact cases of infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria are rising exponentially. He explained that because of antibiotic resistance we have very limited options to treat them. He told students how his research is focused on finding novel antimicrobial treatments based on antibiotics that have been considered as ineffective in the past, but could be combined with other antibiotherapies to treat patients with superbugs. 
  • Dirk de Meester, Director of Micreos, which has created a new anti-MRSA treatment for skin infections based on bacteriophages, which is available as an open source product for research purposes, explained its development and applications.
  • Tim Tasker, from Antibiotic Research UK, explained how the organisation’s work will focus on funding research towards the discovery of novel antibiotic resistance breakers. 
A review is currently being carried out with Government support into the effects of antimicrobial resistance, with the Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine.”

The conference was organised by Dr Michal Letek and Dr Volker Behrends, both lecturers in Biomedical Science at Roehampton, to raise public awareness of the issue and to show their students the type of research being carried out around the country to combat the problem.

The results of this event, which was supported by the University's Heath Sciences Research Centre will be discussed in the forthcoming Society for Applied Microbiology’s Antimicrobial Resistance Meeting on 7 December 2015 at Royal Society of Medicine, London.

The University is preparing to organise the next Roehampton Antibiotic Workshop on 18 November 2016 to continue supporting the European Antibiotic Awareness Day.

You can study Biomedical Science at Roehampton.


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