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The potential role of wildlife in antimicrobial resistance and ecosystem contamination

Prof Ayona Silva-­Fletcher (RVC), Dr Simon Rofe (SOAS) and Dr Tierney Kinnison (RVC) - £358,201
1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021 (Project Grant BSA18)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global problem but is particularly acute in those countries where antibiotics are widely available without the need for a prescription and they may be purchased for inappropriate and excessive use by the human population and in livestock production. Resistant bacteria may enter the ecosystem in untreated sewage from human population centres and in effluent from livestock and aquaculture farms. In addition, sewage and effluent may contain significant amounts of un-metabolised antimicrobial (for example antibiotic) compounds.

Preliminary results show that wildlife in remote parts of Sri Lanka have resistant bacteria in their faecal matter. This suggest that wild animals coming into contact with polluted water or soil or plant material may become infected with resistant bacteria and in turn spread these bacteria in their faeces into the ecosystem. There is also the possibility that widespread pollution with antimicrobial compounds may lead to the de novo development of resistant bacteria in wildlife. This proposal will use three different environments in Sri Lanka to study the occurrence of resistant bacteria present in selected wildlife species (mammals and birds). If wildlife is a vector for transmission of AMR it is a threat to the whole ecosystem of this island nation.

An important feature of this project will be the recruitment, training and utilisation of volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ to assist in data collection. Citizen science focus on getting the community engaged in the processes of scientific research, with the intended goal of advancing and using scientific knowledge.

Research team:

Prof Ayona Silva-­Fletcher, Professor in Veterinary Education, RVC
Dr Simon Rofe, Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies, SOAS
Dr Tierney Bennett (nee Kinnison), Lecturer in Veterinary Education, RVC.

Co-investigators at the Participating Site, the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka:

Dr Niromi Jayasekera, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy
Dr Ruwani Kalupahana, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Microbiology
Dr Sanda Kottawatte, Lecturer (Probationary) in Veterinary Pharmacology.

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