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Four ways to tackle antibiotic resistance

It’s European Antibiotic Awareness Day today, and the MRC, BBSRC and EPSRC have produced a new timeline looking at progress in tackling antibiotic resistance over the past few decades. Here we’ve picked just four examples ― from glowing infections to a smartphone app ― reflecting the four themes of a cross-research council antimicrobial resistance funding call to give you a taster of research in this area.

Mouse colon infected with Citrobacter rodentium

(Image: S.Schuller, Wellcome Images under CC by 4.0)

Germs that glow

Being able to observe how bacteria and other bugs move around the body is crucial to knowing how to tackle them. In an MRC-funded study, Professor Gad Frankel at Imperial College London developed a way to infect mice with Citrobacter rodentium bacteria that had been genetically modified to produce light. [1] His team could then track this glowing infection around the mouse’s body in real time, and regular CT scans showed how different vaccines and antibiotics change the way bacteria take over parts of the body. Read more

Encouraging new ideas for CFS/ME research

Three images from the conference: Stephen Holgate speaking (top); feedback post it notes (middle) and panel discussion (bottom)

(Image copyright: Clare Ogden and Sonya Chowdhury)

At the inaugural conference of the UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative in September researchers in the field of chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis got together with scientists from a range of other fields in an effort to spur on research into new areas. Here Professor Stephen Holgate, MRC Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine in Southampton, and Chair of the collaborative, explains why the conference was so significant, and what came out of it.

CFS/ME is a complex disease. In fact, it may not be just one disease at all. I say ‘may’ because there’s a lot we don’t know about CFS/ME ― and we desperately need research to get some answers.

It is a chronic condition characterised by severe fatigue, weak and painful muscles and/or joints, poor memory and concentration, and poor sleep. Not everyone will have the same symptoms, or the same severity of symptoms. We’re not certain what causes it, and although it often occurs after an infection or accident, it can also come on gradually.

So, we have a condition with no known cause, that manifests itself in different people in different ways and severities, and at different times. It’s obviously a field that is ripe for discovery. But so far, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t been able to get these answers. Read more

Behind the scenes at an MRC Panel

We’ve looked at what it’s like to be a member of an MRC board, but what actually happens at a meeting? Katherine Nightingale sat in on part of a Panel session to find out.

Scoring equipment

The scoring equipment used by the Panel

In a large, bright room on the 13th floor of a London office block, 25 people are deciding how to spend up to £10 million. They are the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS) Panel, charged with making decisions on applications for funding the development and testing of new therapies, medical devices and diagnostics.

The task at hand is to consider a set of 15 full applications seeking just over £15m for funding. Each application has already been the subject of considerable work from the Panel during the outline stage, which does what it says on the tin, with the Panel feeding back on a brief description of the project. Read more