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Changes to prescribing – evaluation of likely impacts on the aquatic environment and AMR potential

About This PhD Project

Project Description


After consumption, pharmaceutical residues are excreted by patients, not fully removed in wastewater treatment works, and thus enter the aquatic environment, where they pose a risk to aquatic organisms through chronic exposure. The environmental risk posed by the residues in the environment depends on the amount of drug consumed, metabolism, removal in treatment works, persistence in the environment, bioaccumulation, and ecotoxicity. In addition, antimicrobials in the environment give rise to environmental antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR is one of the most pressing human health concerns of the 21st century and there is increasing recognition for the role of environmental AMR: the presence of antimicrobial drugs in the environment gives a selective advantage to bacteria that carry resistance to antimicrobial drugs and encourages the spread of resistant genetic material. This is acknowledged in the ‘One Health Concept’ where environmental health, animal / livestock health and environmental health are seen as linked elements in one system.

Both considerations – ecotoxic effects and ARM - have driven and are driving changes to medical prescribing, such as the implementation of a ‘green formulary’ in Sweden, the so-called WISE list (, which seeks to reduce adverse environmental effects, or changes to guidelines on antimicrobial prescribing in Scotland, which seek to address the AMR issue. Currently, GCU is leading a Scottish Government funded project working with NHS(Highlands); Scottish Water and SEPA on establishing a baseline assessment of pharmaceuticals in the Scottish water environment working towards reducing the range of pharmaceuticals prescribed. A Hydro Nation Scholar will start at GCU in October to explore changes to prescribing in terms of acceptability and environmental and social benefit. Whilst work to develop a dual system of maximum allowable concentrations for pharmaceuticals in the environment, i.e. utilizing the lowest value of either the Predicted No Effect Concentration (PNEC) or Minimal Selective Concentration (MSC), is underway elsewhere (e.g. in Germany Switzerland), there is thus an urgent need for an integrated framework for the evaluation of changes to prescribing. which is not yet available. This integration is important because changes to prescribing may be more complex than a ‘straight swap’ and the framework thus needs to go beyond single compound toxicity and single compound MICs and include assessment of cumulative or whole effluent impacts.


This PhD project would seek to develop a framework for the evaluation of changes to prescribing in terms of ecotoxicity impacts and in terms of consequences for environmental AMR. This would be achieved through both model-based risk assessment methods and laboratory work (microbiological and ecotoxicological). Current and recent changes to prescribing will be evaluated within this framework.


The successful applicant will hold the minimum of a 2:1 BSc or an MSc in a relevant discipline (e.g. microbiology, pharmacy, environmental science). Previous experience of quantitative research methodology is desirable.

Additional application requirements. Only include the following if you wish the applicant to provide a worked up research proposal for the project or you have other application requirements additional to the standard application materials.
Candidates are requested to submit a more detailed research proposal (of a maximum of 2000 words) on the project area as part of their application.

Research Strategy and Research Profile

Glasgow Caledonian University’s research is framed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, We address the Goals via three societal challenge areas of Inclusive Societies, Healthy Lives and Sustainable Environments. For more. This project is part of the research activity of the Water Research Group.

How to Apply

Applicants will normally hold a UK honours degree 2:1 (or equivalent); or a Masters degree in a subject relevant to the research project. Equivalent professional qualifications and any appropriate research experience may be considered. A minimum English language level of IELTS score of 6.5 (or equivalent) with no element below 6.0 is required. Some research disciplines may require higher levels.

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying. Applicants should complete the online GCU Research Application Form, stating the Project Title and Reference Number (listed above).

Please also attach to the online application, copies of academic qualifications (including IELTS if required), 2 references and any other relevant documentation.

Please send any enquiries regarding your application to: Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview.

For more information on How to apply and the online application form please go to

Dr. Karin Helwig

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