£12 million in grants to tackle superbugs in a global context


Multimillion pound grants have been awarded to four UK universities to conduct interdisciplinary research into the biological, social, cultural and economic drivers behind the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in low and middle income countries (LMICs).

The AMR in a Global Context Consortia awards, totalling £12 million, have been jointly funded by the cross-research council AMR initiative and the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Global Health Research Programme.

The four winning consortia, led by teams at the University of Bristol, the University of St. Andrews, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Glasgow, are the result of a raft of innovative development awards and workshops to improve capacity and collaboration in both the UK and partner countries.

The three-year awards will draw together UK groups with researchers and policy makers in partner countries. They will use a range of research approaches, from clinical and microbiological to geography, modelling and social sciences, in order to identify, prioritise and understand the specific problem of antibacterial resistance (ABR) across different communities and environments in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Thailand. The consortia will operate in contrasting areas of high and low resistance including urban, semi-urban and rural settings, allowing a unique comparison of geographical, economic and social contexts, to better inform future interventions to prevent the spread of infections and resistance.

The projects will contribute to the UK’s commitment to Official Development Assistance (ODA).  The research councils’ contribution will be made through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) which supports cutting-edge research addressing the problems faced by developing countries. The NIHR contribution will be made through its Global Health Research ODA allocation which is aimed at supporting internationally outstanding applied research for the direct and primary benefit of patients and the public in LMICs.

Dr Jonathan Pearce, Head of Infections and Immunity at the MRC, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a complex and fast evolving issue for healthcare and agriculture worldwide. It’s a problem that cannot bedealt with by one country acting alone, so these kinds of international, collaborative research projects are absolutely crucial to developing our understanding and finding solutions.

“There are worrying gaps in our understanding of the spread and transmission of drug resistant infections, the factors driving such resistance, and how these factors are influenced by, and interact with, different environments. The challenge is exacerbated by rapidly increasing urbanisation, poverty and inequalities, conflict and fragility, changing patterns of food production and expanding globalisation, which means data and insight is missing from the countries and communities who need it most.

It is predicted that AMR will kill more people than cancer by 2050 worldwide if we do not come together to find a solution. We must act before it is too late.”

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department of Health and Social Care, said: “AMR is a multidimensional global health issue which has the potential of creating a disproportionate health and economic burden on low and middle income countries (LMICs).

“The NIHR, working in partnership with the cross-research council AMR initiative, is pleased to be supporting four multidisciplinary consortia to identify the factors driving microbial resistance in LMICs and contribute to the development of context-specific interventions to tackle this global health challenge.”

The four grants have been allocated as follows. For full details of each project please visit gtr.ukri.org

Grant holder

Research organisation

Proposal title

Award amount

Matthew Avison

University of Bristol

One Health Drivers of Antibacterial Resistance in Thailand

£2.9 million

Matthew Holden

University of St Andrews

Holistic Approach To Unravel Antibacterial resistance in East Africa (HATUA)

£2.8 million

Nicholas Feasey

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Drivers of Resistance in Uganda and Malawi: The DRUM Consortium

£3 million

Ruth Zadoks

University of Glasgow

Supporting the National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance (SNAP-AMR) in Tanzania

£3 million

Together with UKRI partners, MRC is sponsoring a Science Museum exhibition putting the spotlight on antibiotic resistance, running until spring 2019.

Read more about AMR on the MRC website and the NIHR website.

To read more information, click here.

The Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health.

MRC [Medical Research Council]