What drives the risks of antimicrobial resistance in Argentinian livestock farms? How can these risks be minimised through effective regulation? These are just some of the questions that an interdisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Bristol, led by the Bristol Veterinary School, will answer, thanks to a £1.25 million grant from the Global AMR Innovation Fund, managed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UK Aid, administered by BBSRC.
Antimicrobial drug resistance (AMR) is a global threat to health and development and a problem that is getting steadily worse. Within Latin America, Argentina has been tracking levels of AMR in human infections for over 30 years and was the first country in the region to develop a national strategy for the control of AMR.
However, data for antimicrobial use is extremely limited and the amount of AMR bacteria on farms and in the near-farm environment is poorly understood. The UK government recognises that developing countries like Argentina need support and information to adequately train veterinarians, develop regulations, build surveillance capacity and improve farming practices.
This new research project 'FARMS-SAFE: Future-proofing Antibacterial resistance Risk Management Surveillance and Stewardship in the Argentinian Farming Environment' will provide better surveillance information for AMR and antimicrobial use as well as support to Argentina and other Latin American countries to develop a risk-based approach to designing regulation.
The consortium of four UK academics - Dr Kristen Reyher, Professor Matthew Avison and Dr Maria Paula Escobar from the University of Bristol along with Professor David Demeritt from Kings College London - has been awarded £1.25 million from the DHSC's Global AMR Innovation Fund and UK Aid, administered by BBSRC, as part of the "Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment" initiative to address key challenges around AMR in Argentinian agriculture.
The research team will collaborate with leading scientists at the Universidad de Nacional de La Plata, Universidad de Nacional de Rio Cuarto and the National Food Safety and Quality Service for Argentina (SENASA). The grant builds on Bristol's already strong track record of AMR funding.
Dr Kristen Reyher, leader of the AMR Force research group at the University of Bristol Veterinary School and project lead, said: "This is another exciting opportunity for us to use our knowledge in antimicrobial stewardship on a new continent. There is a significant burden of disease and economic cost of AMR in Argentina. Since AMR is rising, inevitably the health and well-being cost of AMR will also rise and developing areas like Latin America are likely to have higher death tolls - of both humans and animals - than other regions.
"Our aim is to develop a complete picture of antimicrobial use and AMR levels in livestock systems in Argentina and their environmental impact, so we can find potential interventions that will reduce antimicrobial use and AMR. We will identify the changes in context, practice and knowledge necessary to accompany the more widespread adoption of practices that are considered effective and will assess the regulatory and governance support necessary to encourage better antimicrobial stewardship."
The interdisciplinary team will work alongside veterinary researchers and professional bodies, farmers and treatment decision makers, the food industry and government regulatory authorities to identify the context in which farmers make decisions about use of antimicrobials for animal disease and quantify antimicrobial use on farms in Argentina. They will also work closely with key individuals and organisations involved in the regulation of AMR to develop tools led by the risks that drive AMR, to advance smarter approaches of antimicrobial use in agriculture both in Argentina and in other low-and middle-income countries worldwide.
Dr Maria Paula Escobar, a human geographer who works as a Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at the Bristol Veterinary School and has experience of working with farmers on AMR in Colombia, added: "Our research team - the AMR Force - has a track record of working closely with farmers, veterinarians, retailers and government bodies to encourage responsible use of antibiotics. We are excited to have this opportunity to collaboratively generate, evaluate and analyse farming practices and strategies in another Latin American context and to show how risk-based regulation and governance can lead to more sensible use of antimicrobials across farming systems."
The project will cover all types of major livestock and will combine and build on current ongoing work in Argentina.
Matthew Avison, Professor of Molecular Bacteriology in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and a key member of the team, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to work alongside leading scientists and learn from them while solving a multi-dimensional problem. Similar to our work across the UK and in Thailand, this project will inform more responsible use of antimicrobials for One Health as well as and for sustainable livestock production in developing countries."
The work will lead to a significant new understanding of the frequency and causes of AMR in Argentinian farming systems, how this influences the near-farm environment, and possibly human health, and will inform policy making within Argentina, Latin America and the wider world.