The 2019 United Nations report on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) identifies it as: “one of the greatest threats we face as a global community .” The evolution of drug-resistant bacteria, our over-use of antibiotics and failure to develop new methods for tackling infection could leave us without viable treatments for even the most trivial infections within the next 3 decades. The aim of our team’s research in this area is to confront this challenge through the development of new, sustainable antimicrobial treatments and prevention strategies that minimise the use of antibiotics.
Bladder cells in a human organoid model of a urinary tract infection with antibiotic- loaded microbubbles before (left) and after ultrasound exposure (right)
We have recently demonstrated that microparticles loaded with antibiotics can be used to achieve much more efficient delivery of antibiotics to infected bladder cells, eliminating the intracellular bacteria that are responsible for recurring urinary tract infections. This technology has formed the basis for a spin-out company and a clinical trial with colleagues at UCL.
We have further shown that using ultrasound to stimulate drug uptake can reduce the dose of antibiotic required for effective treatment by 2 orders of magnitude. Developing this work and complementing it with new techniques for rapid diagnosis and high throughput testing is now the subject of major new programme grant funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The primary focus of our EPSRC Programme Grant Scheme funded research project, called Beyond Antibiotics, is the development of new technology to enable: better characterisation of bacterial infections, rapid point-of-care diagnostics, high-throughput testing of new therapies, alternatives to antibiotics and infection prevention strategies. As recognised by the UN call-for-innovation , the creation of this technology represents a critical unmet need. To have a significant impact, it is essential that this development is also integrated with the wider global efforts on tackling AMR. As detailed below, we will achieve this through extensive engagement with AMR research networks and our clinical, industrial and policy partners. The aim within the 5 year programme is to provide a set of commercially viable and effective technologies to address the need for transformative innovation.
Read more about our Beyond Antibiotics research project at the Centre for Antimicrobial Research & Engineering website.
This research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) Programme Grant Scheme under the reference number EP/V026623/1.