Antibiotic resistance in humans is a growing health concern, and scientists are now looking at how water and soil in the environment might contribute to people becoming immune to life-saving antibiotics.
Experts will discuss this issue at an upcoming University of Arizona workshop, which will tackle the hot-button topic of antibiotic resistance in agriculture.
"Antibiotic Resistance in Agroecosystems: State of the Science" will be held Aug. 5-8 at Biosphere 2, and aims to bring together microbiologists and chemists to identify the most effective methods to track antibiotic resistance in the environment.
"Several recent studies have found antibiotic resistance genes in agricultural environmental samples, including water and manure-impacted soil," said Jean McLain, workshop co-organizer and associate director of the UA Water Resources Research Center in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "This has really raised the alarm about how our environment could possibly create a linkage to antibiotic resistance in humans."
To better understand the complex factors involved in tracking antibiotic resistance in a variety of agroecosystems – including determining levels naturally present in soil and water – McLain and workshop co-organizers Daniel Snow of the University of Nebraska and Lisa Durso of the U.S. Department of Agriculture have invited a number of leading experts to inform attendees on the state of research and aid in the development of future guidelines and practices.
Invited experts include:
- Diana Aga, State University of New York, Buffalo, who develops analytical techniques to study the environmental fate and transport of veterinary antibiotics.
- Alistair Boxall, The University of York, England, an environmental chemist with an active research program in risk assessment and the use of molecular techniques to predict toxicity.
- Eddie Cytryn, The Volcani Institute, Israel, an expert researcher in antibiotic resistance and wastewater microbiology.
- Amy Pruden, Virginia Tech University, who was the first to propose that antibiotic resistance genes might be considered emerging contaminants.
While the workshop seeks to bring together scientists already working in the field, it also includes several programs to attract students and young researchers in order to facilitate the active involvement of a future generation of antibiotic resistance experts as they learn firsthand the current state of the science.
"We will be introducing graduate and undergraduate students, who can attend the workshop at a significant discount, to the scientific processes involved in detecting and tracking antibiotic resistance in environmental samples," McLain said. "We're excited about this amazing opportunity to be at the forefront in determining the future direction of our field."
Early registration for the workshop – which includes lodging, airport transportation and all meals – is $385 ($285 for students) and runs through June 30. Student scholarships of $100 are also available. After June 30, registration rates will increase to $485.