INFECTIOUS DISEASES: TACKLING THE "SUPERBUG" THREAT

Background

A major issue in managing bacterial infections, particularly those acquired in hospital or imported from overseas, is the development of antibiotic resistance. This occurs when treatment with an antibiotic suppresses sensitive bacteria or resistance genes jump from one bug to another. Either mechanism allows organisms that are resistant to grow and take over, often with fatal consequences. Hence the term “superbug”. “Superbugs” often feature in media stories about people getting extremely sick or dying of ‘septic shock’ while in hospital. Even our ‘drugs of last-resort’ are rendered useless in the fight against some of these superbugs. And there are many others – in the food chain, imported from overseas and in animals.

The project

Antibiotic resistance can occur due to transfer of genes between bacteria, thereby passing genes for antibiotic resistance from one bug to another. To solve this problem, we need to study the microbial genome, which comprises the complete genetic makeup of the bacterial chromosome.The high-tech equipment we need - Illumina platform for sequencing of microbial genomes - will be used to identify and track problem organisms in order to prevent outbreaks and spread of these serious infections.

Benefits

We are recruiting one of the world’s leading specialists in genome sequencing and bioinformatics. The results of this work will have a major impact on infection control in hospitals, food security and imported communicable diseases such as TB, typhoid fever, viral infections and malaria.

Fundraising target: $100,000 (high-tech equipment)

Project leader: Professor Tania Sorrell, Director of the Sydney Institute for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity (SEIB), the University of Sydney.