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Professor William Gaze and Professor Lora Fleming will influence National policy on multiple public health crises

Exeter academics inform national policy on two health crises

Two academics from the University of Exeter’s Medical School have been invited to speak at multiple conferences in the House of Commons to give evidence on the renewal of national health policies.

Professor William Gaze will provide an overview of his own research progress against the challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as the new AMR research strategy is announced to coincide with the governments new 5-year AMR strategy.

AMR is the ability of microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, to stop antibiotics and antivirals from working against them. In 2017, a United Nations report written by William highlighted the role of the environment in spreading resistance.

William will assess ongoing research priorities not yet addressed, and how UK research can provide global solutions. He will then help address audience questions. It comes after Professor Lora Fleming addressed Parliament on the topic of planetary health.

William, who leads the University of Exeter Medical School’s research programme on the environmental dimension of antibiotic resistance, said: “Our research has shown it’s incredibly important to take action to limit antibiotics and resistant bacteria entering the environment. We now know that the environment is likely to play a part in how resistance to antibiotics can evolve and spread and it’s fantastic to see this recognised in the new UK 5-year AMR strategy.”

William has been selected in recognition of his expertise in the field, with a diverse background in biological sciences, microbial ecology and clinical microbiology. Research conducted with collaborators at the University of Warwick and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology includes the realisation that rivers are a reservoir of diverse antibiotic resistance genes associated with human and animal waste, and work by his team at Exeter has shown that human exposure and environmental transmission of AMR is likely to occur in coastal waters.

The event, fully titled ‘Antimicrobial Resistance: How Research is Tackling the Challenge’, will be supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) on behalf of the UKRI Cross-Council Antimicrobial Resistance initiative.

The panel will be held in the House of Commons on Wednesday February 13th, and an audience of parliamentarians, government advisors, academics and funders will be in attendance.

Earlier in January Professor Lora Fleming was invited to speak in conference with the Environmental Audit Committee on the topic of planetary health – the study of the impact of environmental health on human health and healthcare systems.

The conference, which took place in the House of Commons, saw Lora respond to questions from MP Mary Creagh relating to the future of our healthcare systems, and possible precautionary steps which may need to be taken.

Lora, who is also director of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health, said: “Planetary Health is an exciting new framework to understand that our health depends on the health the environment – and it offers the chance to understand and protect the opportunities and benefits, not just the risks, to our health and wellbeing from interacting with the natural environment.”

More information about the conferencce can be found here.

Date: 12 February 2019

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