GOSH and ICH to tackle antibiotic resistance in children

A new initiative set to tackle the global threat of antibiotic resistance (also known as antimicrobial resistance or AMR) has been awarded £3.3 million in government funding.

The ‘Precision AMR (anti-microbial resistance)’ initiative will be led by Prof Judy Breuer at UCL and involve researchers and clinicians from GOSH, ICH, UCL and UCL Hospital (UCLH). The ultimate aim is to improve tests for antimicrobial resistance and develop AI (artificial intelligence) methods to rapidly interpret test results.

Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green (Lead Healthcare Scientist at GOSH) will lead on the paediatric component of the project, which is dedicated to improving outcomes for children by increasing understanding of the impacts of antibiotics. New infrastructure will be developed including molecular and phenotypic technologies to examine the effects of AMR on children as well as dedicated diagnostic services and antimicrobial resistance experts and technical staff. 

The funding to GOSH, UCL and UCLH is part of a total of £32m committed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to research centres across the country to improve antimicrobial prescribing and identify how resistance arises.

The project aims to enable earlier diagnosis and treatment with the right antibiotic; ensure treatment with the right dose and combination of drugs; and prevent the spread of antibiotic resistant infections. The researchers also hope to be able to confirm more quickly cases where no antibiotic resistant infection is present in patients, so that unnecessary treatment is not given.

As part of the project Dr Joe Standing (Principal Research Associate at ICH) will also lead a research facility that uses the innovative ‘hollow fibre’ system to help work out the optimal antimicrobial dose, duration and treatment combination in children, where clinical trials can be challenging. This approach could also replace some animal studies.

The team will use machine learning approaches analyse AMR tests, where algorithms make better predictions over time as they analyse more data. The researchers will link up this data with electronic patient records to gain information on how clinicians are using test results in clinical care so that prescribing and management of patients can be improved. They will also invest in new sequencers which look at bacterial DNA to identify mutations which could mean bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.

Prof Breuer, said: “Antibiotic resistant infections are now a major global threat to human health requiring urgent action, and we’re delighted to receive this funding in order to accelerate the development of new tools and tests for patients. We’re particularly excited about applying AI and machine learning to this problem, and the potential it has to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients.”

At the same time as announcing the £32m in funding for UK research centres, the government also said it will be retaining the expertise of outgoing Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies, as UK Special Envoy on antimicrobial resistance.