An Imperial researcher testing samples in a lab

Growing levels of resistance to antimicrobial treatments present a threat to all human health which Imperial is tackling through an interdisciplinary programme of research and translation (SDG3).

In 1928, Alexander Fleming ushered in the era of modern medicine when he discovered the antimicrobial properties of penicillin whilst working at St Mary’s Hospital (now part of Imperial). Yet, he also presciently warned that bacteria might eventually adapt and become resistant to antibiotics. 

Without action to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) there could be an estimated 10 million extra deaths a year by 2050 – with simple infections no longer easily treatable.  And yet, initially the SDGs did not have a single indicator specific to AMR.  However, modern medicine, as well as SDGs 1,2,3 and 8, depends on ensuring that life-saving drugs continue to work.

Professor Alison Holmes leads Imperial’s response to this challenge as Director of the Antimicrobial Research Collaborative. 

“There will be no single solution to the global threat of antimicrobial resistance,” she comments.  

“We need to tackle this problem synergistically, on multiple fronts, which will require an unprecedented level of international cooperation.” 

Imperial has a strong track record in addressing drug resistant infections and AMR. The College is at the forefront of multidisciplinary research into improving how we use antimicrobials, exploring and developing innovative solutions spanning technological, behavioural and policy approaches.  For example, this includes artificial intelligence for clinical decision support; pragmatic surveillance systems; online GP prescribing tools to optimise antibiotics use; behavioural interventions targeting poor prescribing practices; point-of-care diagnostic systems to identify pathogens and resistance; and microneedle biosensors that track patients’ antibiotic levels. 

As well as SDG3 (health and wellbeing), this work also contributes to SDG9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) through co-design of technology, implementation research and local entrepreneurship and innovation; and to SDG10 (reduced inequalities) by looking at lack of access to timely anti-infectives and excess use of antibiotics, investigating where the burden is highest within and across countries.