USDA offers $6 million for antimicrobial resistance research

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday announced the availability of $6 million for research on antimicrobial resistance in agriculture, including how resistance develops and spreads and how to combat it.

"Through our Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, USDA is leading the way to better understand how antibiotic resistance develops, find alternatives to antibiotics, and educate people on practices that reduce the need for antibiotics," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

The money is available through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, the USDA said. The grants will be administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The agency said proposed research projects must address one or more of the following goals:

  • Developing novel ways to investigate "the ecology of microbial resistance microbes and gene reservoirs" in animals, crops, food products, or farm-raised seafood.
  • Developing and evaluating resources and strategies to limit the emergence, spread, or persistence of resistant pathogens in farm animals, crops, and food.
  • Identifying critical control points for combating resistance in food production, both before and after harvest.
  • Designing innovative education and outreach resources that can be adapted by various groups, including policy makers, food producers and processors, and consumers.
  • Conducting studies to evaluate the impact of proposed research, education, and outreach activities on antimicrobial resistance across the food chain.

Grant applications are due Aug 3, the announcement said.

The USDA said the funding is one of the ways the agency supports the Combating Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria (CARB) National Action Plan and work of the Task Force for Combating Antibiotic Resistance.

Since 2009, more than $82 million in food safety and education grants has been awarded under the AFRI, including $3.4 million for antimicrobial resistance in fiscal year 2015.

The USDA announcement comes in the wake of a recent report in mBio that stressed how little is known about the development and spread of resistant bacteria and resistance-related genes in agricultural ecosystems. The authors advocated a standardized surveillance program focusing on a few bacterial species and specific resistance genes.

See also:

May 2 USDA press release

Apr 27 CIDRAP News story on mBio report

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