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Shaping a global response to antimicrobial resistance

4 December 2020

2 minutes to read

Shaping a global response to antimicrobial resistance

Research conducted by Dr Anne Leonard and Professor Will Gaze at the University of Exeter has shaped the global understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and has influenced government and WHO strategies in tackling one of the world’s biggest environmental threats.

Their world-leading research has been cited in some of the world’s most important AMR government reports, informing scientific knowledge and policy on a national and international level.

Dr Anne Leonard’s research found that resistant bacteria are present in coastal waters. In addition, swimmers and surfers using these environments for recreation are not only at risk of swallowing resistant bacteria, but are also at increased risk of becoming carriers of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Her work was cited in the WHO’s recommendations to the Bathing Water Directive on maintaining safe bathing water quality, and in the Environment Agency’s 2020 report on health, people and the environment. The risks of human exposure to AMR in water were also referenced in the UK government’s 5-year AMR strategy, in which tackling AMR in the environment was identified as a priority.

“Natural environments are key to human health and prosperity, but they can also present a threat to health. We need to understand the risks associated with natural environments, as well as the ways we, as a global community, contribute to those risks in order to devise effective strategies to minimise harm to human health.”
Dr Anne Leonard

Exeter’s international reputation for AMR research led to Professor Will Gaze and Professor Michael Depledge being approached to co-author a chapter in the UNEP Frontiers 2017 report on AMR in the environment. Will Gaze presented the chapter in Nairobi to the third UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA3), who committed to tackle AMR from an Environment and Human Health perspective. The report was also cited in the UN AMR Final Report, which was presented to the UN Secretary general in April 2019. This is arguably the most important document on AMR produced in recent years, as it will shape the global response to AMR by the UN and WHO.


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