Antibiotic Resistance

Dr. Douglas Call (left) with Beatus Lyimo, a graduate student at the Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology. They are working in the lab at the Mandela Institute where Dr. Call and his team process samples to analyze for antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic Resistance Program

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a major threat to human health—and the problem is global. Scientist at the Allen School are taking many approaches to help solve this complex problem. Our research may provide new technology and inform policy decisions to help control the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance worldwide.

Tracking Antibiotic Resistance

The spread of resistant bacteria is accelerated by travel and transporting food, or by more people moving into urban areas—particularly those with poor sanitation. In many parts of the world, antibiotics are sold over the counter or the quality of the antibiotics is not well regulated, which accelerates the rate of resistance.

Because antibiotic resistance is a complex problem, scientists at the Allen School are taking several approaches to understand the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. Researchers are looking at the transmission of resistant bacteria (including how it spreads among animals and humans), how bacteria maintain their resistance to antibiotics, and they are identifying reservoirs, such as untreated water or soil, that can harbor resistant bacteria.

Many reservoirs also provide ways for bacteria to travel. In urban and peri-urban areas, poor sanitation or untreated water can be a reservoir for resistant bacteria and also a way it is spread to others. By understanding the reservoirs and transmission pathways, our goal is to help reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance globally.

Local Knowledge, Global Solutions

Our scientists are conducting research in east Africa with the Nelson Mandela Institution in Arusha, Tanzania to better understand how resistant bacteria move between animals and between humans and animals. Tanzania provides an ideal setting for understanding how resistant bacteria travel. Locally raised domestic livestock, people, and wildlife live close together, which offers a unique research opportunity. People routinely come in contact with animals, share water, transport animals, and prepare food—all things that can spread resistant strains of bacteria. Because the problem is truly global, resistant bacteria found in east Africa can travel across the world.

Douglas Call, professor in the Allen School, is also training scientists to better understand antimicrobial resistance and recognize the genetic mechanisms involved. He has trained scientists from Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria. Knowledge from this training is used in our partner institutions and countries to help scientists study why antibiotic resistance occurs, how it spreads, and how to control it.