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The University of Birmingham’s iconic clock tower ‘Old Joe’ has turned a shade of blue this week as part of the inaugural World Antibiotic Awareness Week. 

Old Joe

This week is also World Antibiotic Awareness Week, and The Lancet has published a major new Series that suggest that the global fight against antimicrobial resistance could be under threat unless the evidence base for policies to control resistance is radically improved.

Laura Piddock, Professor of Microbiology, and Deputy Director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, Director of Antibiotic Action, was the senior author of the second paper in the Series, ‘Understanding the mechanisms and the drivers of antimicrobial resistance’.

Professor Piddock explained, “The existing scientific basis, policies and guidelines for responsible use of antibiotics – whether in hospitals or in the food supply chain – are often poorly understood. There’s an urgent need to improve the quality of evidence, and our understanding of how to combat resistance.”

“This is a complex problem on a global scale and therefore requires action on a number of fronts. Support for this issue will be essential to getting all parties together and working towards a common goal.”

By outlining the mechanisms by which bacteria and other pathogens acquire resistance, the Piddock team and others have shown that removing the evolutionary selection pressure for antimicrobial resistance doesn’t necessarily mean that resistance will be reversed.

This has important implications for the global fight against antimicrobial resistance, as it means that the problem of resistance could remain for many generations to come, even if current usage of antimicrobial drugs were to be radically curbed.

“Our understanding of the mechanisms by which bacteria and other pathogens acquire resistance to drugs suggests that there will be no single solution to the global threat of antimicrobial resistance,” says Professor Alison Holmes, Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit for Healthcare Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance and Professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College, London, and first author of the paper. 

The Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham comprises over 140 researchers who work on bacterial and fungal pathogens. Their novel microbiological discoveries are a platform for antimicrobial drug discovery to feed the drug development pipeline, and their work continues to provide better evidence for policy makers.

‘Old Joe’ is the affectionate name given to the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower located in Chancellor's Court at the University of Birmingham. It is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.