New study investigating extent of antimicrobial resistance in healthy people launches

A new study aiming to learn more about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has launched, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

Around 2,000 people will be invited to donate stool samples as well as throat and nose swabs, which will help better inform researchers about the underlying factors driving AMR, and thus support the development of new methods to reduce it.

Scientists are specifically interested in the levels of certain antibiotic resistant bacteria found in the general population, such as carbapenem-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBLs) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The researchers will also investigate the prevalence of the fungus Candida auris.

Maria Caulfield, Health Minister, said: “AMR is a silent killer that costs over a million lives across the world per year. The UK is a global leader in tackling this threat and we launched a vital Call for Evidence last year to help us shape our next 5-year National Action Plan on AMR.

“This new study will build the evidence base so we can better understand what causes AMR to help us ramp up our efforts to tackle this deadly issue.”

The scientists will break down their evaluations by age, sex, ethnicity and geographical location in a bid to understand if there are any observable differences within the different demographics. They will also consider a range of risk factors for AMR, including travel, diet, household transmission and how often they are in contact with healthcare services.

Dr Russell Hope, Deputy Director, AMR Division at UKHSA, said: “Antibiotic resistant bacteria can cause very severe and difficult to treat infections – killing thousands of people every year in this country and globally, as well as having a huge economic impact.

“However, very little is known about how commonly antibiotic resistant bacteria are found in the general ‘healthy’ population – mixed in with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria that live in our guts.

“By understanding more about the burden of AMR in healthy people in the general population and the factors that mean someone is more likely to be carrying a resistant organism, we will be able to design better ways to tackle AMR in different populations.”

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