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AI to power antimicrobial resistance surveillance and mitigation

Photo Credit: University of Technology Sydney

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) will lead a consortium of 26 researchers from 14 organisations in the development of an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ‘knowledge engine’, which is capable of predicting outbreaks as well as informing interventions.

As reported, the ground-breaking project has secured a A$ 1million boost from the Medical Research Future Fund, which provides grants of financial assistance to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.

What is the issue?

The project’s Chief Investigator explained that AMR is not a simple problem confined to health and hospital settings.

Pets and livestock rely on many of these same medicines. Thus, they find their way into the food chain and into the environment through animal faeces.

If left unchecked, AMR is forecast to cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050, and will add a US$ 100 trillion burden to health systems worldwide.

In order to truly track, trace and tackle AMR, it is vital to know how it develops and is propagated in the environment and the agricultural systems as well as through human-to-human transmission.

This is called the One Health approach.

Powering an AMR ‘knowledge engine” with AI

OUTBREAK or the One-health Understanding Through Bacterial REsistance to Antibiotics Knowledge will have the team deliver an integrated spatial and temporal map, and AI-powered ‘knowledge engine’ of AMR in Australia.

Every city, town, region and country will have a different AMR fingerprint and therefore different risks.

The vision, ultimately, is a worldwide AI-powered network for AMR surveillance and mitigation, led by Australian research and industry.

The technology will allow anticipation of AMR outbreaks, determination of AMR origins, and evaluation of the risks and cost-effectiveness of treatments and intervention strategies for individuals and communities.

This is possible by ingesting numerous data streams from people, animals and the environment and combining them with AMR science,

Who are involved?

OUTBREAK builds on internationally-recognised Australian research, with the project being supported by 14 collaborating entities.

At its core is the whole genome sequencing (WGS) and metagenomics research project, which brings together a multidisciplinary team of scientists and medical researchers.

Their diverse expertise includes genomics, metagenomics, microbiome and computational biology, medical geography and spatial epidemiology, patient data handling, data linkage and big data, and zoonotic disease.

They are also experts in biosecurity, water treatment technologies, behavioural change and social science, risk management, pharmacy, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and health economics, policy, and law.

Government funding

The Government’s strategic investment in this project recognises that it is both innovative at an international level, and that it has significant potential to have a transformative impact on health care.

OUTBREAK is one of 10 successful projects to receive a one-year initial grant through the Medical Research Future Fund’s new Frontier Health and Medical Research Program.

Designed to enable detailed planning for significant research projects in the health and medical research sector, it will lay the foundation for further MRFF funding of up to A$ 5 million to develop and deploy the new technology.

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