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Bristol researchers to help tackle the global problem of antibiotic resistance

Press release issued: 25 November 2011

Antibiotic resistance has become an escalating health issue that threatens our ability to control bacterial infections. To help tackle this global health problem an international collaboration, comprising researchers from the UK and Canada, has been awarded around £4.5 million to develop new strategies for treating ‘superbugs’.

Antibiotic resistance has become an escalating health issue that threatens our ability to control bacterial infections. To help tackle this global health problem an international collaboration, comprising researchers from the UK and Canada, has been awarded around £4.5 million to develop new strategies for treating ‘superbugs’.

Increasingly, microbes are developing resistance to many, if not all, currently available antibiotics, and in recent years the pace of acquired resistance has accelerated, creating populations of ‘superbugs’. 

The international partnership, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR-III) and the Canadian High Commission (CHC), through a four-year investment of $4 million and £2 million, will enable academics in the UK and Canada to carry out antibiotic resistance research.

The researchers will be working to tackle the currently hard-to-treat gram-negative bacterial infections that cause some hospital-acquired infections, and study bacterial cell walls in the search for new antimicrobial targets against which new drugs can be developed.

Dr Jim Spencer and Professor Alasdair MacGowan from the University’s School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine represent one of the UK teams that aims to combat some of the most resistant ‘superbugs’ by specifically targeting the mechanisms by which they resist antibiotics. One focus of this work will be organisms carrying the NDM-1 resistance gene, many of which are resistant to all front line antibiotics.

Dr Spencer said: “Both the UK and Canada have strong academic and clinical research strengths in this area and both countries share the aim of stimulating high-quality research on innovative alternatives to existing antibiotics. Our team aims both to identify ways to block resistance to some of the most important antibiotics, and to develop tools and resources that will help others engaged in similar studies.”

Professor Doreen Cantrell, chair of the Immunity and Infections Board at the Medical Research Council, said: “The UK Medical Research Council has made huge strides over the last century to stem the tide of bacterial infection. We must remain one step ahead of bacterial infections as they quickly learn how to combat drugs designed to beat them. We're hopeful that the Partnership on Antibiotic Resistance will add a new momentum to the work we have been carrying out in the UK and Canada."