Antimicrobial resistance is becoming an increasingly serious threat. If not addressed, by 2050 it could kill millions of people, more than from cancer or road traffic accidents.

The World Health Organization leads a week-long campaign (18-24 November) dedicated to raising awareness of this important research area.

Our researchers, part of one of the largest groupings of microbiologists in the world, are doing all they can to tackle this global issue by understanding how antibiotics work and finding new ways to prevent and treat infections.

Together, they are tracking and discovering new ways to prevent and treat drug-resistant bacterial infections.

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Our successes

  • Demonstrated that biocides – commonly used as disinfectants and preservatives – are a key factor in increasing antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria. This evidence has been used by the European Commission to underpin new legislation now in force across the EU.
  • Launched the ‘Antibiotic Action’ campaign – a global initiative designed to inform and educate politicians, policy makers and the public all about the need for discovery, research and development of new antibiotics as well as appropriate use.
  • Showed that use of certain antibiotics in veterinary medicine can cause resistance in bacterial species which then present potential risks to human health, leading to amendment of international policy on the use of antibiotics in food producing animals through the WHO and FDA.
  • Used whole genome sequencing to reveal a new mechanism of resistance in a strain of Salmonella from a patient with an untreatable infection.
  • Discovered how nature controls the level at which E.coli clones evolve to take over the human gut using a type of evolutionary selection called ‘negative frequency dependency selection’.
  • Received £1.3 million funding from the Newton Fund, matched by the Chinese National Science Funding Council, to build an international research network to explore and address factors behind the rise in antibacterial resistance in China.
  • Developed a new method to identify resistance genes in gut bacteria by comparing the three-dimensional structures of known antibiotic resistance enzymes to the proteins that are produced by gut bacteria.
  • Established that potentially harmful microbes overwhelm the healthy gut microbiota in intensive care patients, in collaboration with the Quadram Institute and partners.

Causes of antibiotic resistance

WHO infographic - causes of antibiotic resistance
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How can you help?

Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional
Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them
Get vaccinated
Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics
Never share or use leftover antibiotics
Prevent infections by regularly washing your hands, handling food in a safe/clean manner, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex and keeping vaccinations up to date

Find out more

Institute of Microbiology and Infection ➤
Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership ➤
World Health Organization ➤
Learn about our other Birmingham Heroes ➤