COVID-19 wastewater sampling technique used in anti-microbial resistance project

A £1.25 million project will research the role of managing antibiotic use in combatting anti-microbial resistance (AMR) transmission. It will use the novel wastewater sampling technique UKCEH developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time this technique will be implemented with populations outside the UK and used to target non-COVID health questions.

Sewage works

A novel wastewater sampling technique UKCEH developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is now being used to research the role of managing antibiotic use in combatting AMR transmission. This is the first use of this technique to target non-COVID health questions.

It is thought that the transfer of antibiotic residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria into the environment, and subsequently into animal drinking water, may have an effect on the transmission of resistant bacteria and their resistance genes back into the human population. 

The project – Antimicrobial Stewardship in Hospitals, Resistance Selection and Transfer in a One Health Context (STRESST) – will determine the effects of hospital-wide antibiotic use programmes on the numbers of susceptible and resistant bacteria in a hospital in Malawi. The goal is to use wastewater surveillance to provide insights into the efficacy of antibiotic management programmes and the control of antimicrobial resistance in patients.

Dr Andrew Singer, principal scientist at UKCEH, said: “We are really excited to be field-testing several next-generation wastewater sampling kits in Malawi to understand the impact of different antibiotic management programmes on the presence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the hospital population. The novel sampling technology was developed in response to the need to conduct wastewater-based surveillance in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic; this will be the first time that it will be implemented to populations outside of the UK and target non-COVID health questions.”