Superbugs

For many decades modern medicine had the availability and the privilege of antibiotics, which have saved millions of lives all over the world.  However, that era may be coming to an end.  Today, we are under threat by bacteria that are resistant to, and are not killed by available antibiotics.

They are becoming known as “Superbugs”.

It is believed that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are the greatest threat facing human health at this point of time and in the future.  There is a possible nightmare scenario in development, where even patients with common conditions such as urinary tract infections, which would be normally treatable, may die because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Seeing infections that were easily treatable not being treatable anymore would be a major step back in human health.  It is estimated that in 2050, 10 million people will die annually due to antimicrobial resistance, taking over cancer, today’s biggest killer.

There are several reasons for this.  One of the reasons is that antibiotics are often over-used or misused, and that is fueling bacterial resistance.

In some parts of the world antibiotics can be freely bought over-the-counter without showing a prescription.  Doctors also sometimes prescribe antibiotics to cases that don’t need these precious medicines.  This means that people often take antibiotics when they don’t need them.  This misuse of antibiotics fuels bacterial resistance.

An essential tool in confronting superbugs is the availability of rapid diagnostics and early detection of outbreak situations.  Current methods for the identification of super bugs however are still tedious and time-consuming.  Results take between two and three days to know whether infections causing bacteria are sensitive or resistant to antibiotics.

Another very important pillar in combating strategy is by tracking the emergence and spread of superbugs around the world via surveillance programs.

The infection and immunity team at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research located at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital are working hard to help combat the global threat that antimicrobial resistance impose.  Their research activities include:

  • Studying the spread of superbugs in different parts of the world
  • Developing tests to expedite diagnosis
  • Conducting clinical trials to antimicrobial therapies
  • Communicate the science of antimicrobial resistance to the public to raise awareness aiming to limit the inappropriate use of antibiotics