Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), particularly the resistance to antibiotic medicine is one of the most pressing public health challenges of the 21st century. Estimates suggest that by 2050 AMR will be responsible for 10 million deaths. It is expected that deaths related to AMR could reduce Gross Domestic Product and go on to cost the world up to $100 trillion USD.

The UK-China AMR Program is a collaborative research and training programme that will bring together leading experts in the UK and China to tackle antibiotic resistance, the type of AMR identified as most critical to human health.

The Program will conduct research that will deliver key evidence that is required to enhance the success of antibiotic resistance reduction strategies in China. Three linked projects will investigate behavioural, economic and environmental aspects of antibiotic resistance. This will involve:

  • measuring human exposure to antibiotics (from environmental and livestock sources) and documenting patterns of antibiotic use in health care
  • designing a tailored intervention for China and produce evidence-based recommendations to modify antibiotic prescribing behaviour, in order to reduce antibiotic consumption
  • estimating the cost-effectiveness of different intervention strategies, as well as the economic burden of AMR to the country

Professor Helen Lambert, Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Bristol, and Professor Bo Zheng, Peking University First Hospital, will lead the partnership and have designed the project to ensure it delivers an interdisciplinary approach that establishes sustainable partnerships. Anhui Medical University and Fudan University will also lead specific work packages across the programme, with UK contributions from the University Southampton, the University of Leicester and the University of Bath, Public Health England and North Bristol NHS Trust.

Measuring human exposure to antibiotics

The University of Bath team, led by Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern from the Department of Chemistry, Water Innovation and Research Centre and Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, will be contributing to a project which will assess human exposure to antibiotics from environmental and therapeutic sources. Professor Sam Sheppard from the Milner Centre for Evolution will provide expertise on how antimicrobial resistance genes evolve and spread between bacterial strains and species. We'll be working closely with Fudan University, China.

Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern said:

The interdisciplinary UK-China AMR Hub presents a unique opportunity to tackle AMR, one of the most important threats to global public health. We are looking forward to our collaboration with Chinese and UK partners on this critical issue.

Professor Zheng, Principal Investigator, said:

AMR is a serious challenge not only in China, but also for the entire humankind. China, with the largest population in the world, has recognised the impact of AMR on the health of people as well as the national economy for a long time. China has developed many policies in terms of rational use of antibiotics and confining AMR.

The UK as a developed country, is fully experienced in the research areas such as the impact of AMR on economy, rational use of antibiotics. I believe that under the strong support of Chinese government, with the help of UK colleagues, by joint contribution of the experts from two countries, our Program will definitely help us better understand the impact of AMR, explore a practical strategy to confine AMR, provide experience for other countries, and further benefit the humankind as a whole.

It is expected that the Program will produce the first national estimates of the economic burden of AMR among certain diseases and a clearer understanding of the situation for one of the world’s largest consumers of antibiotics, providing essential information for China and the world on the impact of AMR, building upon the global picture of the challenge.

The Program is one of four UK-China Programs for AMR research awarded by the Newton Fund under a joint UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) funding initiative.