With more patients than ever not responding to antibiotic treatment, the World Health Organisation and the EU have made the study of antibiotic resistance in hospitals and amongst the general population one of their highest priorities for research.

Antibiotic resistance originates from their overuse in human and veterinary medicine, with antibiotics entering the sewage systems after use virtually unaltered. Active antibiotics pollute the water environment, although the extent of the pollution, unlike pesticides, is unknown.

Reader in the School of Life Sciences, Dr Ron Dixon, is developing new ways to address these concerns by detecting minute amounts of antibiotics in our natural rivers and lakes. His study focuses on how antibiotic-resistant bacteria appear to survive sewage treatment and their impact on freshwater habitats.

This important research will help us understand how antibiotic resistance develops in the environment and in animal and human populations, and what measures we can take to protect ourselves from antibiotic-resistant pathogens.