AMR Project

‘Influence of ventilation design on the prevalence of anti-microbial bacteria in homes’

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Start Date: 01 October 2017

Duration: 18 months

Funder: AHRC (AMR Indoor and Built Environment Pump Priming call)

Funding amount: £250k

Principal Investigator: Prof Tim Sharpe, Professor in Environmental Architecture, Glasgow School of Art

Co-Investigators: Prof Cath Noakes, Professor in Environmental Engineering, Leeds University
Dr Louise Fletcher, Lecturer in Environmental Engineering, Leeds University
Dr Gráinne McGill, Researcher, MEARU, Glasgow School of Art

Project partner: Prof Stephanie Dancer, Consultant Microbiologist, NHS Lanarkshire

Summary:

This project will investigate how contemporary housing design affects the indoor microbiome, and what the effects of this might be on anti-microbial resistance. In the early 19th century, the way that houses were designed led to considerable improvements in public health, largely as a result of improvements in sanitation, but also access to fresh air and sunlight.

In recent years however, commercial interests and building legislation have largely dictated design issues. During this time the ways that buildings have been designed and constructed has changed significantly, mainly as a response to issues of climate change. Improved thermal performance and increasing airtightness has been able to isolate the building from the external environment. Whilst this will have benefits in terms of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, lower running costs and better comfort, it is becoming increasingly clear that levels of ventilation, and consequent standards of indoor air quality (IAQ) are reducing and there is emerging evidence that this might have negative health impacts.

Whilst there are a number of dimensions to IAQ, one area that has not been researched is the prevalence and nature of microorganisms. People – especially vulnerable groups such as the old and very young – spend a great deal of time in the home, and so any change to the indoor microbiome may significantly affect occupants’ health. There is a concern that isolation from the outside environment may reduce diversity and result in proliferation of harmful microorganisms, including those that have antimicrobial resistance.

This study aims to close this gap in knowledge by undertaking an assessment of contemporary housing to determine the ventilation characteristics and relate this to the presence and nature of microorganisms in the home, with the specific aim of identifying factors that would impact on the presence and proliferation of anti-microbial resistant microorganisms. It anticipated that this could lead to changes in the way that we design buildings, in particular ventilation provision, and the project will aim to address this through a programme of academic, industry and public dissemination.

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