Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is a significant challenge to both human and veterinary medicine. The problem is both multifaceted and global. Resistance continues to evolve and amplify at local scales while travel and trade bring antibiotic resistance to the global arena. This project will produce crucial but currently missing knowledge about the mechanisms by which ecological and socioeconomic factors impact the fate of antibiotic resistance traits. The research will be carried out in three ecologically distinct zones of the greater Serengeti ecosystem of Tanzania by a multi-disciplinary and international team with expertise in molecular biology, disease ecology, quantitative modeling, socio-economic and ethnographic disciplines. It includes researchers from the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health and the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University in the United States; the University of Glasgow and the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London in the United Kingdom; and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Zonal Veterinary Investigation Centre in Tanzania.

The goal is to understand how antibiotic resistance is impacted by patterns of connectivity within and between communities, arising from shared resources such as water; population density and its effect on interactions between human and livestock; and animal movements via trade between communities. The central hypothesis is that the prevalence and diversity of antibiotic resistance in human and livestock populations is primarily explained by the dissemination and persistence of resistance within and between various host populations, rather than by direct use of antibiotics, leading to similar antibiotic resistance patterns and gene pools in human and livestock populations. Antibiotic resistance characterization of 64,000 isolates of E. coli from humans, livestock and wildlife and molecular characterization of a subset of these isolates will be carried out on samples from 30 study communities. Socio-economic and ethnographic data will be collected at both the household and community levels. Besides providing information about antibiotic use behaviors, these data will be incorporated into an ecological modeling process that will investigate the diversity of resistance traits and their spatio-temporal distribution and probable dissemination pathways between reservoirs.

The project is based on the "One Health" premise that simultaneously considers both human and animal health and welfare. This is particularly important in rural communities where economic and food security is highly dependent on the health and welfare of livestock. The findings from this project will have direct implications for policy design and execution to control the global emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, a challenge that transcends national and international borders. The project also supports international research collaboration and the training of postdoctoral researchers and graduate students in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Tanzania.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Deborah Winslow
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Washington State University
United States
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