Antibiotic resistance study ‘personal’

A University of Otago researcher says his work examining whether anti-depressants can build resistance to antibiotics has a personal dimension for him.

Dr Sam Wardell, postdoctoral fellow in the department of microbiology and immunology, will investigate the role of antidepressants in promoting antibiotic resistance.

It is one of 13 Otago projects which received a total of $3.7 million in the latest Health Research Council’s funding rounds.

"There was a paper that came out last year that showed that in the lab, certain anti-depressants can create resistance to antibiotics.

"Our research will take [the paper] a little bit further; we want to see whether there is the same effect in animals and humans."

The research would take place in three stages; the final stage would be testing the effects on humans.

"If we can find out if these prescription drugs are causing unintended side effects of antibiotic resistance then perhaps we can improve treatment for mental health issues.

"So, for example, if you get an infection and you’re on anti-depressants then perhaps different antibiotics would be used.

"I think this research is timely; there’s always the talk about the stigma about mental health, so any way we can talk about it would hopefully lead to people being treated better."

Dr Wardell said the project had a personal dimension.

"It’s probably the most personal research I’ve ever come up with.

"Everyone has been affected by mental health issues, either personally or through loved ones.

"I’ve seen friends struggle with mental health issues.

"I’ve had my own battles with mental health and use anti-depressants."

He was excited about the project, which would be funded for up to two-and-a-half years to complete.

"One of the greatest things about science in general is being the first person to know something.

"When we discover these things, it’s great to be able to tell the public.

"It’s always nice to get some sort of recognition with this funding."