Robots revolutionising antimicrobial resistance testing

24.10.17

Robots are revolutionising the testing for antimicrobial resistance in an Australian-first project, partnered by AgriFutures Australia.

The AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program has collaborated with Australian Pork Limited, Murdoch University and a number of biotechnology companies on this innovative project.

The project aims to develop an inexpensive and accurate system for objectively defining antimicrobial resistance risks at the farm level.

The four-year venture is currently testing farmed chickens and pigs, but feedback would be provided to the livestock industry with results shared with producers and veterinarians.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a key World Health Organisation priority,” said Dr Kylie Hewson, AgriFutures Australia’s Chicken Meat Program Development Officer.

“And there are significant international pressures, needs and wants from all stakeholders to demonstrate judicious practices coupled with surveillance.”

Dr Sam Abraham and Dr Mark O’Dea from the Murdoch University School of Veterinary and Life Sciences are spearheading this leading edge project.

“Globally, there is much concern regarding antimicrobial resistance in livestock and its impact on animal and human health,” Dr Abraham said.

“The research will help to further consolidate Australia’s natural advantage in this area arising from decades of conservative use of antibiotics in agriculture.”

Developing protocols for specialised laboratory robots to isolate, count and characterise large volumes of bacterial samples from animal faeces is just one aspect of the project.

The robots will be used to further identify and grow thousands of individual bacteria to determine the presence and distribution of antimicrobial resistance at the farm and industry level.

Results from the research will also provide veterinarians with robust diagnostic information to effectively treat animals in their care.

“The technology developed during this project will be transferred to livestock testing laboratories involved in animal disease control in Australia,” said Dr O’Dea.

“This will further advance large scale testing of disease causing bacteria and downstream development of control tools such as vaccines.”

Antimicrobial resistance and stewardship was identified by AgriFutures Australia in 2016 as a priority investment.

AgriFutures Australia is currently seeking preliminary research proposals as part of the Chicken Meat Open Call to address industry priorities, including antimicrobial resistance and stewardship. The Chicken Meat Open Call closes 31 October 2017.

Fast facts

  • AgriFutures™ Chicken Meat Program is collaborating with Australian Pork Limited, Murdoch University and biotechnology companies to address antimicrobial resistance risks at the farm level
  • Antimicrobial resistance is a key World Health Organisation priority
  • The technology developed during this project will be transferred to livestock testing laboratories
Chicken Meat Open Call
Chicken Meat Program Five Year RD&E Plan 2014-2019