Event date: 21 May 2019

Bacteria, viruses and parasites – microorganisms – can be found everywhere, in our environments and inside our bodies. Many are harmless and beneficial for our health, but some can cause disease. Antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics and antiviral agents have been very effective in controlling spread of disease, and saving lives. However, the frequent use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs has led to some pathogens becoming resistant to several types of drugs. These pathogens are commonly called superbugs.

Superbugs are becoming increasingly common worldwide, and are causing a range of illnesses that are extremely difficult to treat. The World Health Organization has declared antimicrobial resistance (AMR) a global health emergency, and has called upon nations worldwide to urgently address and manage this issue.

While AMR is most commonly discussed in the context of hospitals and animal health, it is also considered an environmental contamination issue. Antimicrobial agents, antimicrobial resistant organisms, and antimicrobial resistance genes are all considered to be environmental contaminants.

For this Environmental Science Series event, Associate Professor Erica Donner shared her research on this topic, providing information about health effects, the current state of knowledge in key environments, and insights into what we can do to assist in preventing the further development and spread of AMR.

Speaker bio: Associate Professor Erica Donner

Associate Professor Erica Donner is an environmental scientist who specialises in environmental chemistry and microbiology. Her research provides a fundamental basis for environmental risk assessment and management, and she works across a range of interdisciplinary research topics ranging from the transport, fate and effects of environmental contaminants, to wastewater treatment and reuse, and the beneficial use and optimisation of treated waste products.

Associate Professor Donner leads an international collaboration project on antimicrobial resistance in wastewater treatment plans and downstream environments. She is a member of the European COST Action ES1403 Working Group on the ‘Microbiome and mobile antibiotic resistome in treated wastewater and downstream environments’ and is Deputy Chair of the Wastewater and Water Environments Working Group for the international JPI AMR ‘WAWES’ network: “Wildlife, Agricultural soils, Water environments and antimicrobial resistance - what is known, needed and feasible for global Environmental Surveillance”.

Speaker bio: Dr Andrea Hinwood

Dr Andrea Hinwood was appointed as Victoria's first Chief Environmental Scientist in 2017.

Dr Hinwood is an accomplished environmental scientist with specialist expertise in environmental exposures and human health.

Dr Hinwood was previously an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University and held appointments as a member and Deputy Chair of the Environmental Protection Authority of Western Australia and a sessional member of the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia. 

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Reviewed 5 May 2021