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The University of Southampton
Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention

Fighting superbugs on the home front: becoming an ecological citizen in your bathroom

While much AMR research has been conducted in hospital and agricultural settings, the relationship of AMR to the domestic sphere remains largely unexplored. Led by a collaborative highly interdisciplinary team, this NAMRIP-funded pump priming project looks to explore some of the relations between AMR and home cleaning practices. Recent decades have seen a huge rise in the use of antibacterial cleaners (sprays, liquids, wipes, etc.) and the addition of antimicrobials to other products (e.g. deodorants, shaving gel, mouthwash), but householders remain largely unaware of the relationship between their domestic practices and the external environment.

Toilet wipes

The research team will survey the sources and range of antimicrobial substances in the home, and look at how their disposal relates to wastewater. Using creative methodologies, they will investigate how families (specifically those with children under 11) make decisions about cleaning, and what their understanding of the functioning and disposal of different products is. Bringing together knowledge and approaches from a range of disciplines, the team hope to understand the domestic contribution to the rise of AMR in the environment and, in novel ways, to address how people can become ecological citizens through water-based waste-disposal practices.

Dr Charlotte Veal visiting a Southern Water waste treatment works
Dr Charlotte Veal visiting a Southern Water waste treatment works






The becoming ecological citizen methodology has been developed by Dr Emma Roe in previous projects around food and sustainability, and explores how individuals can make connections between human and non-human communities (in this instance the microbiome) as part of an ecology, rather than through the lens of (ethical) consumerism. The team will also make a review of legal and ethical documents around AMR, and develop a public engagement tool aimed at families. This will creatively communicate some of the issues around the interaction of antimicrobials in the homes and AMR in the environment, and explore possible opportunities for behaviour change.

Example of 'Rag'-insoluable material screened out before treatment
Example of 'Rag'-insoluable material screened out before treatment

The research is led by a collaborative, highly interdisciplinary team of senior, mid and early career researchers from faculties across UoS and Bath Spa University, led by Dr Emma Roe. Each brings great academic experience and authority in representing their disciplines as leading thinkers in: waste science and water chemistry (Professor Ian Williams, UoS Engineering & Environment); cultural geographies of nonhuman life (Dr Emma Roe and Dr Charlotte Veal, UoS Geography and Environment); innovative arts and humanities methodologies (Dr Owain Jones, BSU Humanities and Cultural Industries, Dr Paul Hurley, UoS Geography and Environment); engaging with publics through legal and ethical frameworks (Dr Adrian Viens, UoS Law School).

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