Evidence Resources

Syntheses In Progress

What is the research evidence for antibiotic resistance exposure and transmission to humans from the environment? A systematic map protocol



Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a public health crisis that is predicted to cause 10 million deaths per year by 2050. The environment has been implicated as a reservoir of AMR and is suggested to play a role in the dissemination of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). Currently, most research has focused on measuring concentrations of antibiotics and characterising the abundance and diversity of ARGs and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in the environment. To date, there has been limited empirical research on whether humans are exposed to this, and whether exposure can lead to measureable impacts on human health. Therefore, the objective of this work is to produce two linked systematic maps to investigate previous research on exposure and transmission of AMR to humans from the environment. The first map will investigate the available research relating to exposure and transmission of ARB/ARGs from the environment to humans on a global scale and the second will investigate the prevalence of ARB/ARGs in various environments in the UK. These two maps will be useful for policy makers and research funders to identify where there are significant gluts and gaps in the current research, and where more primary and synthesis research needs to be undertaken.


Separate search strategies will be developed for the two maps. Searches will be run in 13 databases, and grey literature will be sought from key websites and engagement with experts. Hits will be managed in EndNote and screened in two stages (title/abstract then full text) against predefined inclusion criteria. A minimum of 10% will be double screened with ongoing consistency checking. All included studies will have data extracted into a bespoke form designed and piloted for each map. Data to be extracted will include bibliographic details, study design, location, exposure source, exposure route, health outcome (Map 1); and prevalence/percentage of ARB/ARG (Map 2). No validity appraisal will be undertaken. Results will be tabulated and presented narratively, together with graphics showing the types and areas of research that has been undertaken and heatmaps for key exposure-health outcomes (Map 1) and exposure-prevalence (Map 2).


Antibiotic resistance, Health, Colonisation, Infection, Water, Air, Soil, Faeces, Food

Who's in the review team?

Isobel C. Stanton
Alison Bethel
Anne F. C. Leonard
William H. Gaze
Ruth Garside

At what stage is the review?

Review in Progress

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