Established in 2014, the Jump Applied Research in Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) is an endowment partnership between Jump Simulation and Education Center at OSF HealthCare and the Grainger College of Engineering. The grant is awarded to help engineers and physicians combat problems in health care.
At the beginning of 2022, twenty research projects, sharing approximately $1.4 million in funding, were awarded grants to study a range of medical challenges. A team of researchers from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, including Ellen Moodie (IGOH), Helen Nguyen (IGOH), Rebecca Smith (IGOH), and Rachel Whitaker (IGOH leader/BCXT), were selected to create a platform to share data related to antimicrobial use and resistance within the Champaign County community.
“We wanted to understand people’s experiences with not using or misusing antibiotics,” said Moodie, an associate professor of anthropology. “When you have an infection, you just want to get rid of it. You’re not thinking of how your microbes evolve to resist the antibiotic. Our larger goal is to educate people.”
Although antimicrobial resistance is a global problem, it is unclear how it evolves and moves through populations. It is usually considered to be a medical problem rather than a local, social, or economic problem, which is unfortunate because resistance likely evolves in response to human behavior and community practices.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned how much human behavior plays a role in the spread of infectious diseases. This grant is centered around understanding how people make decisions so that we can predict what they will or will not do,” said Smith, an associate professor of pathobiology.
Proper use of antibiotics depends on a healthy relationship with the medical system, which is often lacking in marginalized communities due to poor access to healthcare facilities and health insurance. In order to understand how antimicrobial resistance evolves, the researchers will look at the relationship between people and their healthcare providers and develop a consolidated database on the patterns of antibiotic use from local hospitals.
“Every hospital hires a stewardship person, who is usually a pharmacist. However, the stewards are isolated from each other and it's a really big problem. No one is keeping track of what antibiotics are being used and what antibiotic resistance organisms are being identified in real time on a community scale. We want to set up a system where people can share that data,” said Whitaker, a professor of microbiology. “We cannot do community outreach in fits and starts; we need to keep the community contact that we had started with COVID-19 and we have to be consistent if we want to build trust.”