Antimicrobial resistance in the natural environment

Research Area: Microbiology

Antibiotic residues are present in the aquatic environment and the ability of these low concentrations to drive evolution of resistance is a key question.

Research has shown that waste water treatment plants disseminate resistance on a catchment scale and that transmission from environment to humans is also possible via direct contact with coastal waters.

Further research focuses on the interactions of viral and bacterial pathogens with particulates and how this mediates uptake and bioaccumulation by shellfish.

We are working on marine microorganisms (in particular algae and protozoa) and combining field studies, lab experimentation, and molecular biology to understand how these organisms, and the processes they influence (eg, rates of primary production and consumption), respond to variation in the abiotic environment.

We are also interested in photosynthesis, temperature responses and the function/evolution of antioxidant systems in marine and freshwater algae. We have also been exploring the use of metabolite profiling to detect changes in species composition/function of phytoplankton communities.

Other areas of research include genomics of a broad range of microbes and plants and my main area of expertise is in computational analysis of large molecular sequence datasets.

We are studying the human pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus; a leading cause of seafood-associated gastroenteritis worldwide. Our work involves investigating the molecular basis of infection by this pathogen as well as understanding the epidemiological significance of this bacterium in the environment.

We also study natural antimicrobials, ie, compounds produced by organisms such as seaweeds that could be beneficial when developed as novel antibiotics or detrimental in case they co-select for antimicrobial resistance in the environment.

Contact Name: 
William Gaze, Chris Lowe, Nick Smirnoff, David Studholme, Richard Titball, Michiel Vos