Specialist in zoonotic disease joins scientific group

Nicola Williams, Professor in Zoonotic Bacterial Disease at the University of Liverpool, is the latest expertto join an independent scientific group which advises on the responsible use of medicines in UK farm animals. She will sit alongside other eminent scientists from veterinary, medical and microbiological fields, providing insight to inform the policies developed by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance.

Professor Williams is a microbiologist with over 17 years’ experience in conducting applied research, primarily on bacterial zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Her research interests include reservoirs and transmission of food-borne pathogens, transfer and maintenance of antimicrobial resistance, antimicrobial prescribing practice, and the epidemiology of AMR bacteria in wildlife, livestock and pets.

Speaking of her appointment, Professor Williams said: “I am delighted to join this unique group and have the chance to apply my learnings at the ‘coalface’ of changes to animal medicine stewardship in the UK.

“I’m particularly interested in how some areas of current research could add to the knowledge base of this scientific group – for example, work I’m now doing in the UK exploring what drives veterinary prescribing behaviour so we can understand how change can be implemented.

“Other relevant studies concern the characterising of relationships and transmission of pathogenic bacteria between different reservoirs, including humans, livestock and the food chain, and the wider environment.

“We are seeing a far stronger focus on AMR in the environment now emerging, so I hope that adding my knowledge in this area to the scientific group will help RUMA to identify what guidance it should be delivering onwards to the farming industry and in veterinary clinical environments,” Professor Williams added.

Catherine McLaughlin, chair of the Independent Scientific Group, has welcomed the addition of Professor Williams to the team, saying her broad global and inter-disciplinary experience will add valuable breadth to the team.

Ms McLaughlin said: “Professor Williams’ experience in the transmission of antibiotic resistance genes among not just farm animals but pets and wildlife within a range of environments will be extremely valuable.

“One Health really does mean considering all these areas together, so we can ensure the most sustainable and effective approach to stewardship and reducing resistance can be taken.”

RUMA’s Independent Scientific Group, now comprises (alphabetically):

  • Professor David Barrett, Professor of Bovine Medicine, Production and Reproduction at University of Bristol (deputised by Dr Kristen Reyher, Reader in Veterinary Epidemiology and Population Health at University of Bristol)
  • Dr Ian Brown, Consultant Clinical Research Fellow at Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals and Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs
  • Professor Mark Fielder, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Kingston University
  • Professor Nigel Gibbens, former Chief Veterinary Officer, and consultant with Itinerant Vets Ltd
  • Mr Daniel Parker, avian expert for UK government, technical advisor to the British Poultry Council and lecturer at Cambridge University Veterinary School
  • Professor Sharon Peacock, Professor of Clinical Microbiology at LSHTM
  • Dr Shabbir Simjee, Chief Medical Officer, Elanco Animal Health
  • Mr Martin Smith, Lead Veterinary Surgeon, British Quality Pigs
  • Professor Nicola Williams, Professor in Zoonotic Bacterial Disease, University of Liverpool

Since 2014, the UK livestock farming industry has reduced use of antibiotics by 40% and is currently working on reaching a number of sector-specific targets for reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use by 2020.