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Combatting antimicrobial resistance


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing problem in the UK and globally. Led by the Department of Health and Defra, the UK government has launched a UK five year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018 (ref 1), to which BBSRC has contributed.

Developing a range of strategies to reduce reliance on antimicrobials will be a key challenge for the future. From our perspective, this will require a multidisciplinary approach that crosses our strategic priorities in 'Agriculture and food security', 'Industrial biotechnology and bioenergy', 'Bioscience for health' and 'Exploiting new ways of working'.


The aim of this priority is to support both the wide range of research aimed at combatting AMR, and research that underpins the development of strategies to mitigate the effects e.g. through novel alternatives to antimicrobials. Antimicrobials are defined as any compound (natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic) with a direct action on microorganisms, used in the treatment or prevention of infections or maintenance of health.

Scientific scope

The priority includes research to:

  • Understand the fundamental microbiology of organisms with known resistance prevalence in order to understand how resistance develops and is maintained, and to develop mitigation strategies
  • Investigate the selection pressures for antimicrobial resistance and the dynamics of transmission at the genetic, organism and host level impacting on the design of measures to control resistance
  • Underpin the development of novel antimicrobials and alternatives to antimicrobials
  • Develop novel diagnostics to enable rapid identification of antimicrobial-resistant organism or presence of resistance genes

This priority covers AMR in microbes associated with animal, plant and soils systems plus relevant understanding of how such resistance could lead to the transfer of AMR to human pathogens or human commensal bacteria. It also includes generic research on how resistance develops in any microbial species, research on alternatives to antimicrobials and novel antimicrobials of relevance to all species.

However, it does not cover research focused solely on AMR in human only pathogens, transfer of AMR between humans, or alternative strategies to combat AMR in human specific diseases. Research to combat infectious disease in animals that is not aimed specifically at combating AMR would normally come under the priority on animal health. Research to combat infectious disease in crops that is not aimed specifically at combating AMR would normally come under the priority on sustainably enhancing agricultural production.

Outputs and impacts

Research will inform strategies for combatting the development of AMR in managed animals, crops and managed soil, with particular reference to the current situation in the UK. It will also underpin the development of novel alternatives of generic relevance to all species. Impacts on training and the future UK skills base should be considered.


It is anticipated that applicants proposing research on novel antimicrobials or alternatives to antimicrobials should demonstrate translational opportunities. For example, applicants could have an industrial partner involved with the application at some level or could indicate how the research might underpin future Government policy.

Ethical and other issues

Applicants will need to consider any requirements for animal usage (including power calculations), licences and ethical approval and should refer to the BBSRC grants guide. Applicants should also be cognisant of the ethical implications of the generation or use of any novel technologies.


  1. UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018 (PDF)

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