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International Research on Infection Control and Antibiotic Resistance

As Part of its Oxford Partnership, the Berlin University Alliance Funds Two Research Projects on Global Health

News from Nov 17, 2021

Two interdisciplinary research projects are being funded within the framework of the Oxford/Berlin research partnership between the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) and the University of Oxford. They are investigating the role of infection control and dual infections by bacteria and fungi in the development of antibiotic resistance. The total funding amounts to around 650,000 euro over two years.

Funding solicited through the OX/BUA Centre for Advanced Studies (OX/BUA CAS) complements the grand challenge initiative on global health of the BUA. With these initiatives, the BUA is addressing global challenges that can only be solved in an interdisciplinary manner. Therefore, the call for proposals sought new and innovative research approaches that, together with international partners, would identify solutions to urgent global health problems. Thereby, the focus of the call was on the fight against antibiotic resistance, improving pandemic precautions as well as the potentials of digital health and artificial intelligence for global health care. The selection of topics reflects the expertise of the two locations Oxford and Berlin, possible synergy effects as well as strategic developments in the field of global health.

"The OX/BUA CAS call for proposals funds two projects that feature exceptionally strong Berlin-Oxford and other international partnerships, as well as a focus on solutions to acute global challenges in infection control," says Prof. Dr. Çiğdem İşsever, Academic Director of the Oxford/Berlin research partnership.

The second call for proposals of the OX/BUA Centre for Advanced Studies aims to build on the success of the first round of funding on social cohesion and the evolving partnership. The aim is to identify and establish possible long-term and stable cooperative research initiatives between the sites in the field of global health through the funding and to support third-party funds applications of the research initiative groups. Overall, international cooperation is to be promoted by also involving other international partners.

The funded projects in detail

"Context-driven Infection Control Interventions": Dr. med. Friederike Maechler, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Associate Professor MD PhD Christiane Dolecek, Dr. Tochi Okwor, CDC Nigeria

Few high-quality infection control intervention studies have been conducted in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of antibiotic resistance is greatest. Hospitals in these countries often face challenges such as limited financial and human resources, high patient volumes, lack of infrastructure, and limited antibiotic administration methods. As a result, studies from high-income countries can only be related to the situation there to a limited extent. Economic conditions often mean that measures such as screening and isolation/decontamination of pathogens like MRSA are rarely used. The goals of this project include evaluating and prioritizing interventions for their likely impact on antibiotic resistance and establishing a network of hospitals in Africa and Asia that will participate in such studies in the future.

"Bacterial-fungal co-infections and their role in the evolution of antimicrobial resistance": Prof. Dr. Markus Ralser, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Professor Craig MacLean, Department of Zoology University of Oxford

Antibiotic resistance is the driver of an emerging global health crisis. Although there is growing evidence that multispecies infections are more difficult to treat and are a source of antimicrobial resistance, microbial pathogens have typically been studied in isolation. The project plans to study the interactions between a problematic bacterial pathogen and a fungal pathogen. Researchers will identify key mechanisms that contribute to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. Two leading laboratories in Oxford and Berlin, with complementary expertise in antibacterial drug resistance and fungal metabolism, respectively, are involved. The aim of the project is to lay the foundation for a large consortium of infection biology, clinics, and pharmaceutical partners. The consortium aims to develop a new generation of antibiotics and combat the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacterial-fungal co-infections.

OX/BUA Centre for Advances Studies (OX/BUA CAS)

Launched in 2020, the OX/BUA CAS strengthens the existing research partnership between Oxford and Berlin and supports outstanding scientists conducting research on topics including the BUA "Grand Challenge Initiatives (GCI)". The aim is also to create flexible academic structures that enable international and interdisciplinary research without major bureaucratic hurdles. Following in the footsteps of the first GCI on social cohesion, the OX/BUA CAS is already funding three interdisciplinary projects that explore issues around social cohesion.

The Berlin University Alliance

The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of three major Berlin universities – Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin – and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the state of Berlin under the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the Länder.

Joint press release from Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin along with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Press contact
Hans-Christoph Keller, acting press spokesperson for the Berlin University Alliance and press spokesperson for Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Email: medien@berlin-university-alliance.de 

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