Rise of the Superbugs

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Australia, Health, News, Video
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Rise of the Superbugs

By Geoff Thompson and Mary Ann Jolley

Antibiotics are the wonder drugs of modern medicine. They’ve allowed doctors to save and extend life by killing infection and enabling ground breaking surgery. But imagine a world where antibiotics don’t work – that would be a place dominated by superbugs, bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics. Scientists say this would end many modern medical procedures and they claim the threat is greater than we realise.

Four Corners reporter Geoff Thompson looks at the rise of superbugs, visiting the hot spots around the world where the misuse of antibiotics is creating a breeding ground for these bacteria and he tells the horrific stories of those who’ve contracted infections that can’t be controlled. He also reveals that Australian health officials are making decisions that could open the way for a deadly superbug to infect Australians living in the far north of the country.

“…Every time we take an antibiotic we’re giving the bug a chance to become a superbug … the more of us that take antibiotics inappropriately, the greater the chance in the community a superbug will come.”

And that’s exactly what’s happening in India, where antibiotics are not restricted in their use. As a result a new superbug, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase or NDM-1, has evolved. Not only is it deadly in its own right, it’s also capable of genetically modifying other bacteria to make them superbugs.

Superbugs like this have infected people who’ve been injured in accidents while travelling overseas. In other cases, apparently healthy people return from abroad only to discover that a simple medical procedure effectively unleashes the bug. In one instance, a healthy middle-aged man went for a prostate biopsy. The procedure was done successfully but one day later he became desperately ill. A superbug, possibly contracted while travelling overseas, had moved from his bowel into his bloodstream making him critically ill.

In the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, close to the Australian border, the misuse of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of a superbug form of Tuberculosis. For seven years the Queensland and Federal Governments funded TB clinics for PNG nationals in the Torres Strait. These clinics were the last line of defence that could stop the superbug coming to the Australian mainland. But the closure of these clinics in June this year has left the job of treating TB patients with the PNG Government , funded by AusAID. This could increase the risk of superbug TB coming to Australia.

Watch Rise of the Superbugs HERE

“Rise of the Superbugs”, reported by Geoff Thompson and presented by Kerry O’Brien, aired on Monday 29th October on ABC 1 at 8.30 pm.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political, economic, scientific, and educational issues. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s