Environmental factors in the spread of drug resistance

Today David Graham and Peter Collignon released an Insights piece called Scientists around the world are already fighting the next pandemic in The Conversation. A shorter version entitled Access to clean water may be as vital as cutting antibiotic use in the fight against superbugs also was published in The Telegraph. Both articles discuss the importance of environmental factors in the spread of antibiotic resistance, especially in the developing world.

These articles comment on the just-published Technical Brief on antimicrobial resistance from the World Health Organization; Food and Agriculture Organization; and World Organization for Animal Health. The brief provides recommendations on the implementation of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and wastewater management as strategy for preventing infections and reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance around the world. David was a contributing author on the Brief.


The GrahAM Research Group focus primarily on work surrounding antimicrobial resistance (AMR), taking a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to global health and well-being. The team of researchers, led by Newcastle University Prof David W Graham, utilises a holistic ‘One Health Approach’, and contributes to several of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our research provides guidance to various international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, and bridges sustainable development, engineering, health, and sociotechnical mitigation options for reducing global AMR.

The main topics we explore are

  • the transmission, fate and impact of antibiotic resistance genes in the environment resulting from human activity;
  • energy minimization in water, wastewater and solid waste management systems;
  • the microbiology and ecology of greenhouse gas suppression and production in geochemical settings, especially in Polar regions; and
  • water and environmental quality in the developing and emerging world.