"COVID-19 was so shocking because we have become unaccustomed to widespread outbreaks of such a deadly infectious disease. Many of the great plagues that killed millions had bacterial causes and antibiotics have helped subdue them. The rise of antibiotic resistance threatens to change our supremacy over them, potentially killing more people than cancer by 2050.”
When we think of antibiotic resistance, we often link it to the intensive use of antibiotics for medical, veterinary or agricultural purposes. Although non-antibiotic pharmaceuticals occupy 95% of the global pharmaceutical market, little is known about their contribution to the spread of antibiotic resistance. We are wondering if non-antibiotic pharmaceuticals are playing a role, invisibly.

To address this question, we have established a series of bacterial models, including mutation and horizonal gene transfer at both single-cell level and community level. Indeed, we found common non-antibiotic medications like anti-inflammatories and a lipid-lowering cholesterol drug can accelerate the spread of antibiotic resistance. We also employed interdisciplinary methods (including molecular biology, genetic, various omics and mathematical modeling) to reveal underlying mechanisms.

This presentation will deliver our recent discoveries that non-antibiotic pharmaceuticals can speed up the spread of antibiotic resistance. They are invisible or neglected factors for antibiotic resistance, like all icebergs lying underwater. In addition, we would like to discuss our future plans in environmental dimension of antibiotic resistance.


Dr Jianhua Guo received his PhD in 2011 from the Harbin Institute of Technology, China. After his PhD, he worked for two years as an Assistant Professor at Beijing University of Technology. In June 2013, he joined Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) to conduct his Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) project. He was awarded ARC Future Fellowship in 2017. Very recently, he was appointed as the AWMC Deputy Director – Research.

His research focuses on effective integration of process engineering, environmental microbiology and environmental biotechnology to develop innovative and sustainable technological solutions to achieve high-levels of nutrient removal from wastewater. He is also an active researcher in environmental dimension of antibiotic resistance, an area of increasing concern in urban water management.

He has to date published over 100 peer-reviewed papers since 2007. His H-index of 29, with more than 3200 times (Google Scholar, March 2019). Dr Guo’s research output and achievements in the field of urban water management have been reflected by his success in obtaining ARC research funding over past five years. He has attracted approximately $3.7M of competitive grants as Chief Investigator.

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