This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2019, Broadening Participation of Groups Under-represented in Biology. The fellowship supports a research and training plan for the Fellow that will increase the participation of groups underrepresented in biology. This research will investigate the spread of antibiotic resistance, which is a rising threat to society, affecting both low-and high-income countries alike. While the global spread of antibiotic resistance is readily observed, the transfer of antibiotic resistance at the household scale is not well understood. The Fellow will explore how antibiotic resistance genes propagate between humans, animals, and the environment in low-and middle-income countries at the household level. This project will identify the most important environmentally-mediated pathways for the transfer of antibiotic resistance between hosts. The knowledge obtained from understanding how antibiotic resistance spreads can be used to better devise policy, engineering controls, and suggest behavior to combat antimicrobial resistance. To increase minority participation in the biological sciences, the Fellow will incorporate antibiotic resistance and genomics in a teaching module to be used in local community colleges in Boston. The goal of this module is to expose students to research and introduce them to scientific challenges that face our society today.
Antibiotic resistance can spread through two main mechanisms: propagation of antibiotic resistant bacteria and transfer of antibiotic resistance genes. This research aims to characterize both mechanisms of resistance spread in environmental transmission pathways (between humans, water, animals, soil) using recently developed metagenomic tools. Long and short read sequencing will be used to obtain strain-level information on antibiotic resistant bacteria. Additionally, complimentary methods (qPCR) will be used to identify key reservoirs of antibiotic resistance genes by quantifying the abundance of genes in different household samples (humans, animals, water, soil). Beyond this research, the Fellow will develop and implement a teaching module for community colleges centered around sequencing. Not only will community college students learn about the latest sequencing techniques, but also the data they collect will directly contribute to a crowd-sourced database that maps antibiotic resistance in the United States.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.