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Dr Dearbháile Morris from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway has received the largest single award (a total of €11.2 million) of funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for her research examining the role the environment plays in the transmission of antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Morris received the largest single award of €650,000 for her four year ‘AREST’ (Antimicrobial Resistance and the Environment – Sources, Persistence, Transmission and Risk Management) project.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) to change and stop the drugs used to treat infection (such as antibiotics) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others, leading to its reputation as being one the greatest threats to human health. In 2017, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, declared it a public health emergency.

It is estimated that by 2050, unless action is taken,10 million deaths per year will be attributable to antimicrobial resistance. There are several different types of antimicrobial resistant organisms such as methicillin resistant, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and carbapenemase producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), some of which are resistant to the last resort antibiotics.

The proposed research will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors (health, agriculture, industrial) and brings together key players in the area of antimicrobial resistance, embedding the ‘One Health’ concept and building the capacity of Ireland’s research community to support Irelands National Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance.

The ‘One-Health’ concept is a worldwide strategy for broadening interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care and recognising the connection between the health of humans, animals, and the environment.

Commenting on her award, Dr Dearbháile Morris, Head of Discipline of Bacteriology at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway, said: “I am very excited to receive this funding award and commend the EPA for recognising the importance of funding research in this area. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health. We are facing the very real possibility of entering an era where there are no useful antibiotics left to treat infection.

“We need to understand better what role the environment plays in the transmission and persistence of antimicrobial resistance. This four year research project will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors, and brings together a team of world renowned experts in the areas of human health, animal health, agriculture, the environment, geographical information systems, risk assessment, high throughput sequencing technologies and metagenomics”

The AREST project is being led by NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Danish Technical University, UCD, Teagasc and Maynooth University.