McGill-led Research Team Awarded $400K from Génome Québec to Counter AMR Threat

Published: 21 November 2023

McGill team funded as part of a $4.5 million national investment dedicated to identifying genomic solutions to counter antimicrobial resistance and prepare for future pandemics

On November 20, Génome Québec announced $4.5M in funding for five research projects in Quebec under the Genomic Solutions for the Identification, Characterization and Monitoring of Antimicrobial Resistance and Emerging Pathogens program. A research team led by McGill’s Dominic Frigon and Paul Thomassin were awarded $400,000 from the program for the One Health Integrated Assessment Modeling of AMR by Incorporating Metagenomics into Surveillance initiative. The project will also receive $75K from the McGill AMR Centre, and farm and retail meat samples from the Public Health Agency of Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada valuing $286K, as well as sequencing reagents in the value of $39K from PacBio. In total, this will amount to $800k in support of the project.

The research team includes co-investigators Professor Ioannis Ragoussis of McGill, and Émilie Bédard of l’Université Polytechnique and François Guillemette of l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, as well as collaborators from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Guelph.

“Examining and tracking how microbes migrate through our environment is a crucial element in solving the growing challenge of AMR,” said Professor Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “This research will help the world better manage this threat and save precious lives. We appreciate the support of Genome Quebec in helping our researchers make a difference.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat to animal and human health that is already killing 1.3 million people worldwide annually and is projected to eventually cause up to 10 million deaths by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program. However, current AMR surveillance approaches are limited because they are onerous and time consuming, and incapable of detecting dissemination mediated by non-pathogenic species.

Through the One Health project, Frigon and Thomassin propose to expand AMR surveillance using metagenomics (i.e., the study of genetic material recovered from all microbes present in an environmental or clinical sample) to produce data that could be tabulated for surveillance across a variety of natural biomes. This holistic understanding of the spread of disease is part of the One Health approach to public health threats such as AMR. Incorporating metagenomic data will allow the assessment of new pathways of dissemination, and a better understanding of the connections between sectors, for example between farming communities and urban populations.

“The AMR Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Platform, a joint initiative of The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), known as the Quadripartite, now promotes the One Health approach to curb the dissemination of AMR by putting together information from humans, livestock animals, the environment,” said Frigon. “With this funding from Génome Québec, our project will allow the identification of critical control points of dissemination between these reservoirs to mitigate the spread of AMR and maintain the capacities of human and veterinary medicine.”

"Funding such projects is a way to contribute to the creation of innovative solutions in response to the current epidemiological and public health risks in Québec,” says Stéphanie Lord-Fontaine, Vice-President, Scientific Affairs at Génome Québec. “Genomics can indeed play a central role in understanding and countering antimicrobial resistance and emerging pathogens, notably through the development and creation of diagnostic tools and prevention measures, the development of surveillance capacity and the discovery of new treatments."

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