press release
Published: 04 February 2019

University of Surrey tackling growing threat of anti-microbial resistance

By Natasha Meredith

The University of Surrey’s School of Biosciences and Medicine, in collaboration with commercial partner Molecular Warehouse, has been awarded £750,000 from Innovate UK on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST).

Getty Images
Getty Images

UK researchers, led by Professor Johnjoe McFadden, will be working with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine to help tackle anti-microbial resistance in China by developing diagnostic tests to detect bacterial infections in humans and to monitor treatment.

Currently, diagnosing such infections and selecting the correct antibiotic treatment can take up to 48 hours, resulting in clinicians prescribing a broad spectrum of antibiotics to treat the ailment, inadvertently increasing the risk of anti-microbial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites mutate to render medications ineffective. This can be brought on by inadequate or incomplete treatment. Resistant infections may kill, can spread to humans and animals, and can lead to huge costs to individuals and society. Current technologies to detect anti-microbial resistance and monitor treatment are expensive, require skilled staff and need regular servicing, which is not appropriate for most developing countries.  

New diagnostic tests developed by the team at Surrey will provide a diagnosis in less than 30 minutes without the need for complex laboratory equipment. This will enable clinicians to prescribe patients with the most effective treatment to prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.

This innovative project will also develop a ‘Therapeutic Drug Monitoring’ system which will accurately monitor antibiotic treatments through a simple blood test. This system will ensure that patients receive the correct dosages of antibiotics to treat infections and determine when the course of treatment should end, extending the shelf life of antibiotics.

With the aim of tackling infectious diseases in China, researchers will also build a knowledge-based platform to monitor outbreaks and provide advice to physicians on appropriate control strategies.

Johnjoe McFadden, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey, said: “Overuse of antibiotics is making infections harder to treat, leading to increasing numbers of deaths which otherwise could have been avoided. This is becoming a public health emergency, particularly in rural China where technologies and medical treatments are in short supply. Our project will make it easier for clinicians to diagnose infections correctly and ensure that patients are prescribed the most appropriate antibiotic.”

Professor Vince Emery, Senior Vice President for Global Engagement at the University of Surrey, said: “This innovative project led by Professor McFadden highlights the global reach and social responsibility of Surrey. Enabling clinicians in rural China to diagnose infections and thus reduce the over prescription of antibiotics, has benefits both in China but also for global health. In addressing this, our researchers will be helping to combat one of the greatest threats to human health today.”      

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