Antibiotic resistance research wins industry student prize

9 Sep 2022
Dr Zhigang Yu

A University of Queensland PhD project investigating methods to combat antibiotic resistance has won a prestigious industry award.
The 2022 QLD Student Water Prize, presented at the annual Australian Water Association Queensland Gala Dinner and Awards Night, was awarded to recent PhD graduate Zhigang Yu for his work Novel Disinfection to Combat Antibiotic Resistance.
“Control of antimicrobial resistance in water is critical,” said Dr Yu. “Disinfection in water and wastewater treatment plants is a vital barrier against antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB); however, it is less effective in controlling- and may even facilitate the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). 

Dr Yu’s PhD project comprehensively investigated the effectiveness of widely-used disinfection processes in controlling ARB/ARGs. 
“The emergence and spread of chlorine resistance and antibiotic resistance among water-borne pathogens threatens the safety of drinking water and public health,” he said. 

“During the post-pandemic period, the frequent use of sanitizers and antiseptic hand wash introduced large loads of antimicrobials into wastewater, and consequently has driven bacterial evolution of antimicrobial resistance.  

“My project sought to develop a novel, cost-effective and environmentally friendly disinfection process for efficient removal of antibiotic resistant bacteria, antibiotic resistance genes, and emerging pollutants, thus significantly preventing the dissemination of antibiotic resistance among water-borne pathogens and securing the water quality.” 

Dr Yu is now in the running for the National Student Water Prize which will be announced at the Ozwater’23 conference in May 2023.