News Release

HKU Engineering team leads global collaboration for universal unit in environmental surveillance of antimicrobial resistance

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The University of Hong Kong

universal unit

image: Toward a universal unit for quantification of antibiotic resistance genes in environmental samples view more 

Credit: The University of Hong Kong

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. To address this issue, the "One Health" concept, which encompasses human, animal, and environmental health, has become a widely adopted framework for research, regulation, and mitigation efforts.

The Quadripartite, a joint organisation comprising the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has released a research agenda aimed at preventing and mitigating antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans, animals, agriculture, and the environment across five themes: transmission, integrated surveillance, interventions, behavioral insights and change, and economics and policy.

Recently, the research team at the Centre for Environmental Engineering Research, led by Professor Tong Zhang, Chair Professor (Water and Environmental Engineering) at the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), and their international collaborators (comprising more than 40 co-authors from 30 institutions in 19 countries) have made significant strides in addressing this critical issue through their work on the Environmental Dimension of Antimicrobial Resistance.

A crucial aspect of integrated environmental AMR surveillance is developing a reliable and widely accepted approach for sharing standardised data across various researches and the international community. To this end, Professor Zhang and his team have proposed a universal unit (antibiotic resistance gene (ARG) copy per cell) for reporting biological measurements in research and regulation. This will enhance the comparability of multiple studies that employ different testing methods and approaches, ultimately contributing to more effective, globally coordinated surveillance efforts. This groundbreaking work has the potential to significantly change current practices in the field and aid in the ongoing battle against AMR.

The international collaborators on this project include notable figures such as Professor Martin Blaser, Chair of the President's Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PACCARB) of the USA; two Stockholm Water Prize laureates, Professor John Rose and Professor Mark van Loosdrecht; former President of the American Society of Microbiology, Professor James Tiedje; and the President of the International Society of Microbial Ecology, Professor Philip Hugenholtz. Dr Xiaole Yin, an HKU PhD graduate and the first author of the research paper, is currently working as a Postdoc at Harvard University.

The research paper was published in the top journal in the environmental field, Environmental Science & Technology, entitled “Toward a Universal Unit for Quantification of Antibiotic Resistance Genes in Environmental Samples”.

Link of the paper:

Media Enquiries
Faculty of Engineering, HKU
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