IIT Faculty Help Lead the Way in Environmental Antimicrobial Resistance Research at MSU

March 29, 2021

IIT-affiliated faculty members Jim Tiedje and Hui Li are part of a team of Michigan State University researchers that have helped MSU rank ninth globally in the amount of research published related to environmental antimicrobial resistance.

Michigan State University ranks ninth in the world and is the only U.S. university in the top ten in terms of advancements in environmental antimicrobial resistance research, according to a recent announcement by the Global Health Research and Policy.

“This recognition that reflects on accomplishments dating back to 2000 further establishes and reinforces MSU as a long-time leader of environmental antimicrobial resistance research,” said Jim Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor and founding director of MSU Center for Microbial Ecology.

For decades, the university has positioned itself globally as one of the preeminent institutions in research related to environmental science. In 1989, MSU was awarded one of the first National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers dubbed the MSU Center for Microbial Ecology.

“Our microbial resistance work is an extension of that center,” Tiedje said. “The strength MSU has in this field is that of multidisciplinary expertise. We have researchers from a broad range of disciplines that have the expertise to come together to work on these problems.”

Dr. Tiedje's research focuses on microbial ecology, physiology and diversity, especially regarding the nitrogen cycle, biodegradation of environmental pollutants and use of molecular methods to understand microbial community structure and function. His group has discovered several microbes that live by halorespiration on chlorinated solvents and is using genomics to better understand ecological functions, endemism and niche adaptation. He is particularly interested in the genomes of closely related populations where the organism's ecology is known so that a link can be made between genetic compositions to ecological outcomes.

MSU Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences Professor Hui Li is an environmental soil chemist who studies emerging contaminants. After starting work at MSU in 2005, he partnered with Tiedje and the MSU Center for Microbial Ecology to work toward methods to quantify the amount and diversity of antibiotics in the environment. He also looks at how bacteria respond to antibiotics in various environmental situations that demonstrate varying bioavailability to bacteria and selection pressure for resistance. As antibiotics are introduced into the environment, they are dissolved in water and absorbed by the soil. Li examines how these antibiotics become available to bacteria. “Different soil components create different bioavailability for the bacteria to access these antibiotics,” Li said.

Tiedje and Li both participate in the IIT's longstanding Superfund Research Program which conducts human health-oriented research on risks from exposure to chemicals commonly found in Superfund sites and on remediation technologies to eliminate the potential for exposure to chemicals from those sites.

Read more of this story by Justin Whitmore on MSUToday at: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2021/leading-the-way-in-environmental-antimicrobial-resistance-research 

or at CANR at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/msu-recognized-as-global-leader-in-environmental-antimicrobial-resistance-research.