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UEL researcher awarded grant to investigate antimicrobial resistance in India

uel bioscience students

Dr Mukhlesur Rahman will investigate if medicinal plants hold the key to fighting antimicrobial resistance  

A UEL pharmaceutical sciences researcher has received a £32,000 grant to investigate the potential of medicinal plants to combat the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Dr Mukhlesur Rahman (pictured), a senior lecturer in pharmaceutical science at UEL, will use the grant from the British Council and the Royal Society of Chemistry to lead a week-long workshop investigating the ‘Scopes and challenges of Ayurvedic plants to combat the issues of antimicrobial resistance’.

It will be held in Kolkata, India in early September, bringing together doctors, pharmacists, pharmacologists, pharmacognosists, herbalists, and 40 early career researchers from the UK and India.

AMR is a serious and complex problem for today’s healthcare system. Although numerous antibiotics have been discovered since the discovery of Penicillin in 1928, bacteria and other pathogens are becoming increasingly resilient to these, making it harder to treat illnesses with antibiotics. 

AMR infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US alone.

The situation in developing countries like India, Bangladesh and Nigeria is even worse because of self-medication and irrational uses of antibiotics. 

If no action is taken, it is predicted that AMR will be the leading healthcare problem counting in excess of 10 million deaths per year by 2050.

Ayurvedic plants, like Aloe Vera, Neem, Indian Senna, and Bengal Quince, are used as medicines in the ancient India health system known as Ayurveda, which takes a holistic approach to the person, focused on balancing physical and mental wellness, and is still widely practiced today across Asia.   

Dr Rahman said, “The World Health Organisation has emphasised the use of indigenous medicinal plants to treat various diseases including infections, so I think it’s necessary to focus on medicinal plants that have been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Unani, Chinese herbal medicine to explore the key chemical compounds that are responsible for potential antimicrobial activity.” 

He says that in order to combat AMR, it is important to find ways to increase public awareness in India on the seriousness of AMR, and warn against the irrational uses of antibiotics, coupled with a systematic approach to drug discovery for new antimicrobial agents. 

He said, “Data on the irrational uses of antibiotics could be obtained by carrying out systematic surveys in developing countries, but it's also necessary to conduct extensive research to find out the characteristics of new of antimicrobial compounds found in traditional herbs for tackling AMR, which I expect to have significant long-term positive impact on healthcare.”