Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major threat for human health worldwide and poses a significant financial burden in treatment costs. AMR is also a crucial issue in agriculture and livestock health. Mounting evidence exists for the exchange of resistant bacteria and their genes between wildlife, livestock, and humans. Yet, we know very little about the role of wild animals in the global dynamic of maintenance and spread of AMR.
By quantifying and characterizing antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in microbiomes of several wild mammalian species from different parts of the world and from different time periods, the project will aim to:
1) Understand how species ecology and exposure to humans and human-modified landscapes influence prevalence and diversity of ARGs in different wild mammals
2) Evaluate how national policies for antibiotic use affect their spill-over into the environment in different parts of the world
3) Study how changes in antibiotic use during the last 80 years since the advent of antibiotic mass production have affected the prevalence and diversity of ARGs in wildlife
This project uses a unique, recently developed ancient DNA metagenomics approach to study AMR from dental calculus. Dental calculus is a calcified host-associated microbiome that preserves on mammalian teeth, remains virtually unchanged through time, and can be collected from museum specimens, allowing traveling into the past. The project will be based on historical collections from several British and European natural history museums.
By identifying key ecological characteristics of wild animals that increase their exposure to antibiotics, this project will propose sentinel species that can be used for efficient monitoring of environmental contamination. Spatial and temporal comparisons will highlight governmental policies that are successful in minimizing AMR spill-over into the environment. Analyses of temporal samples that are usually inaccessible for studies of AMR, will allow the quantification of the impact of recent developments, both positive (e.g. restrictive use of antibiotics in medicine) and negative (e.g. spillage of untreated sewage) on the AMR load. Building on the One Health concept, this project will provide an integrative view of the progression and dynamics of antimicrobial resistance in the wild.
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