A different kind of Superbug

As the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs threatens public health around the world, a new CSIRO study has revealed frighteningly low levels of community knowledge in the Australian public about antibiotics.

The national science agency says 700,000 deaths a last year were caused by superbugs,which are predicted to cause as many as 10 million deaths a year by 2050 unless something is done. Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a big part of the problem, including in animal agriculture.

In their new study, CSIRO surveyed 2217 Australian adults. The results were shocking.

Among the findings:

  • 92% didn’t know the difference between viral and bacterial infections
  • 13% wrongly believed coronavirus could be treated with antibiotics
  • 19% thought antibiotics were needed to treat the common cold
  • 14% have taken antibiotics ‘just in case’ when travelling overseas

CSIRO biosecurity research director Dr Paul De Barro says the misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a huge problem around the world because it’s fuelling the rise of dangerous, drug-resistant superbugs.

‘When we run out of effective antibiotics we’ll be back in the dark ages of the pre-1940s, where a scratch or simple infection killed,’ explained Dr De Barro. ‘So it’s critical that the public are educated on this issue.’


Phoenix Locklear – Pixabay

Another part of the CSIRO’s strategy is the OUTBREAK project, which was set up in collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney and other partners.

OUTBREAK uses artificial intelligence to analyse data from agriculture, wastewater and hospitals to map and predict drug-resistant infections in real time, in order to manage outbreaks before they overwhelm the health system.

OUTBREAK CEO Branwen Morgan says the system uses a ‘One Health approach, which means that as well as people, we will look at how animals, plants and the environment contribute to antimicrobial resistance.’

‘Drug-resistant bacteria can infect anyone regardless of age, gender or location,’ continued Associate Professor Morgan. ‘To fight them, we need to fully understand which ones are a threat to our health and how they’re spreading into and within Australia.’

OUTBREAK is currently seeking investment from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.