AN antimicrobial resistance phenomenon has arrived and the federal government is taking it pretty seriously, so another layer of protection to help improve the resilience and profitability of the food and agribusiness sectors has been applied with a $34.5 million grant.
The Cooperative Research Centre for Solving Antimicrobial Resistance in Agribusiness, Food, and Environments, involving 70 partners contributing an additional $115M cash and in-kind support, is led by UniSA environmental scientist Professor Erica Donner.
Antimicrobials such as antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals are essential for managing disease in humans, animals and plants, however, their widespread use has led to microbes becoming resistant to them, rendering them ineffective, a phenomenon called antimicrobial resistance.
AMR is also a significant problem in animal production, the wine sector and agricultural industries, costing producers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost production and failed crops.
University of SA research leader Prof Donner said AMR needs to be tackled at its source, where it emerges and spreads between farms, in feed and food production systems, and in waste processing.
"Antimicrobials are used in so many ways. They are used to treat our livestock, our crops, and ourselves. They end up being flushed down toilets, sprayed in organic fertiliser, carried through water supplies, produce and stock feed. We need to do everything we can to stop the spread of resistance."
Industry and research will join forces to tackle $283 billion antimicrobial resistance threat to Australia and over the next decade the $149M project will tackle resistance to essential antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals that, if not addressed, could wipe billions from the Australian economy by 2050.
Partners from the water, organic waste, aquaculture, horticulture, viticulture, animal feed and livestock sectors will work together to develop shared solutions to monitor, manage and mitigate the spread of AMR.
New technologies deployed will include IoT sensors, genome sequencing, artificial intelligence and advanced analytics. CRC SAAFE partners will develop solutions such as vaccines, water treatment technologies and new animal feeds and supplements.
AMR can be spread through water, food, waste, animals and humans. Antimicrobial-resistant microbes can also cross-national borders, posing a biosecurity risk and potentially threatening valuable export markets.
Approximately five million people die each year from AMR-associated infections and that figure is expected to increase exponentially unless urgent action is taken.
The World Health Organization has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
"Antimicrobial resistance makes our food supply less safe. Internationally, there are many cases of multidrug resistant bacterial strains causing serious disease being spread via food. CRC SAAFE will help Australian industries stay on top of this risk, ensuring we remain a top producer of premium food and beverage products," Prof Donner said.
"UniSA is thrilled to work with its CRC SAAFE partners over the next decade to advance this critical work. By co-developing technologies and solutions to mitigate AMR, we will deliver benefits for all Australians."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.