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Online course

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain

Explore how antibiotic use in farming is creating resistant bacteria within our food chain. What can we do to tackle the issue?


  • Access to the course for its length + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps)
  • Access to quizzes and assignments
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain

Why join the course?

The rapidly growing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is one of the biggest crises currently facing humanity. A recent UK government review indicated that if current trends continue, by 2050, infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens would lead to more deaths worldwide than cancer and return medicine to the Dark Ages.

Understand the rise of antibiotic resistance in the food chain

Antibiotics are not only an essential part of modern human medicine, they are also indispensable in veterinary medicine. Historically, low levels of antibiotics were added to the feed of healthy livestock, to promote their growth – a practice now banned in the European Union, but still in use elsewhere – while vets still use antibiotics to treat sick animals.

This may have allowed potentially harmful bacteria to become steadily more resistant, including E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, which can make their way from the farm to our dinner plates and lead to infections which may not be treatable.

Discover how we can tackle antibiotic resistance

During this three-week course, we’ll study what antibiotics are, how they work, and how bacteria become resistant to their effects. We will look at how antibiotics are used every day from the perspective of a general practitioner (GP) and a veterinarian.

We will then move on to look at how antibiotics are used in farming. How do antibiotics contaminate the environment? How can antibiotic-resistant bacteria find their way onto our food? What impact does global trade have on the spread of antibiotic resistance?

Finally, we consider what might be done to tackle antibiotic resistance. How effective are our current control measures and policies? What are we doing to look for new types of antibiotics? Are there alternatives to antibiotics? What can we do internationally to cooperate on solving this problem?

By the end of the course, you should have all the information you need to make up your own mind about what we should do to tackle this immensely important problem.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 secondsAntimicrobial resistance has become a global hot topic over the last few years with the recent report by Lord Jim O'Neill suggesting that this could throw medicine back into the Dark Ages with up to 10 million deaths by the year 2050. This is the equivalent of one death every three seconds. Medical and veterinary professionals have been aware of this problem for 10 years. It is only recently that the public and politicians have become aware of this as a growing threat to international public and animal health and national economies. But what is antimicrobial resistance, or AMR as it's sometimes called? What are antibiotics or antimicrobials? And what is antibiotic resistance? And how does it develop?

Skip to 1 minute and 3 secondsAntibiotics are not only used to treat human infections, they're also used to treat livestock diseases. And in some countries, they're used to stimulate the growth of livestock. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be carried in the intestines of livestock and contaminate carcasses during the slaughter process and ultimately end up in the meat on our plates. So we can't divorce ourselves from the consequences of using antibiotics in our food production.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 secondsWhat are national governments and international organisations doing about this? Can more be done? Particularly in agriculture. Can we find new antibiotics? And are there any alternatives available?

Skip to 1 minute and 48 secondsWe live in a shrinking economic world. How do the farm practices of far-flung countries affect what happens to us here? Perhaps we can live in a world without antibiotics. But what would such a world look like? This three week course offers explanations for some of these issues. And we talk to key players in antimicrobial research, both in human and veterinary medicine, including representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, the veterinary profession, DEFRA (UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. There will be articles, infographics, and you can take part in tests to test your knowledge. And also in discussion forums to explore new solutions.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds So join us on this new course on Antimicrobial Resistance in the Food Chain. Find out more.

What topics will you cover?

  • Antimicrobial agents: What they are, how they work, and how resistance develops and transfers between bacteria.

  • Introduction to the basis of controls currently applied to antimicrobial usage.

  • Usage of antimicrobials in the animal food chain – as therapeutic agents, prophylactics, metaphylactics and growth promoters.

  • Increasing frequency of antimicrobial resistance genes in the food chain - evidence of the causal effect of antibiotic use in animal production on resistance development.

  • The epidemiological links between use in animals and public health.

  • The environmental impact of antibiotic use in livestock.

  • Current UK, EU and global policy and legislation.

  • Proposed future legislation and policy actions to tackle AMR.

  • Impact on global trade and supply chain.

  • Good practice in the industry, use of alternative approaches and how this can stop the spread of AMR.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Describe the connection between antibiotic use and the development of antibiotic resistance.
  • Describe the mechanisms and dynamics of transfer of resistant bacteria within and along the food chain, as well as describe the environmental impact of the use of antimicrobials.
  • Appraise current legislation and policy in relation to controlling usage of antimicrobials in the food chain.
  • Identify alternative approaches to infection control not involving antibiotics.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in antibiotics, food and farming, and how antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will affect our lives in the future. We aim to give you up-to-date information on the key issues in this topic, along with the opinions of leading experts from the world of industry, academia, medicine/veterinary medicine and government.

Who will you learn with?

Robert Atterbury

Robert is a Lecturer in Microbiology at the University of Nottingham. He has spent over 17 years researching pathogenic bacteria and how biological agents (phages) can be used to control them.

Paul Barrow

Professor Paul Barrow is Sub-Dean for Research and Business at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham.

Who developed the course?

The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring students with world-leading research and benefitting communities all around the world.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £59.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

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Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.