The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) announced that it will deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technology for a multi-institutional initiative to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across human, animal and environmental contexts.

Researchers will develop an Australia-wide AI-powered network for surveillance and mitigation of AMR, which, if left unchecked, is forecast to cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050, and add a US$100 trillion burden to health systems worldwide.

The research team will deliver an integrated spatial and temporal map and AI-powered knowledge engine of AMR in Australia, with the ultimate goal being 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.

At its core is the whole genome sequencing (WGS) and metagenomics research undertaken over the past five years by Australian Centre for Genomic Epidemiological Microbiology (Ausgem), a collaboration between UTS and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

“Every city, town, region and country will have a different AMR fingerprint and therefore different risks,” the project’s chief investigator, UTS professor of infectious disease Steven Djordjevic, said in a statement. “If we truly want to track, trace and tackle AMR, we need to know how it develops and is propagated in our environment and our agricultural systems as well as through human-to-human transmission.”

The One Health project has also secured a $1 million grant from the Medical Research Future Fund’s new Frontier Health and Medical Research Program, and is supported by 14 collaborating entities, including the DPI and The Sax Institute.

“AMR is not a simple problem confined to health and hospital settings,” Djordjevic explained. “Our pets and livestock rely on many of these same medicines, so they find their way into the food chain and into the environment through animal feces.”

The project brings together a multidisciplinary team of scientists and medical researchers with backgrounds in genomics, computational biology, medical geography, patient data handling, biosecurity and machine learning, among other disciplines.

“This is an exciting initiative, with the potential to make a real difference to global health, environmental, social and economic outcomes,” UTS deputy vice chancellor and research professor Kate McGrath said in a statement.

McGrath also noted the government’s investment in the project recognises that it has “significant potential” to have a transformative impact on health care.

“It’s an excellent example of the significant impact we can aspire to when we leverage our research strengths, forge strong partnerships and collaborate across disciplinary boundaries,” she said.

 

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