Concerns that low community knowledge about antibiotics could increase the rise of global superbugs, has led the CSIRO to bolster public information regarding the overuse of antibiotics and its detrimental effect on the heath system.
In the past year, an estimated 700,000 people globally died from a superbug, with this toll attributed to the overuse of antibiotics. The CSIRO predicts that drug-resistant superbugs could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050.
The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a huge problem because it’s fuelling the rise of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’
A survey conducted by the CSIRO found that 19% of the surveyed 2217 Australian adults believed antibiotics are needed to treat the common cold, and another 14% admitted to have taken antibiotics prophylactically when travelling overseas.
Furthermore, 92% of the surveyed population didn’t know the difference between viral and bacterial infections and 13% incorrectly believed COVID-19 can be treated with antibiotics.
“The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is a huge problem because it’s fuelling the rise of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’, which cause life-threatening infections but are immune to normal antibiotics,” said Paul De Barro, CSIRO biosecurity research director.
“When we run out of effective antibiotics, we’ll be back in the medical dark ages of the pre 1940s, where a scratch or simple infection killed, so it’s critical that the public are educated on this issue.”
In response to this concern, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) along with the CSIRO and partners, launched the OUTBREAK project to use Artificial Intelligence to predict superbug outbreaks and stop them before they reach the health system.
The project will analyse large amounts of data from areas including agriculture, wastewater and hospitals to map and predict drug-resistant infections in real time, and model the best way to manage outbreaks.
“OUTBREAK 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,” said Associate Professor Branwen Morgan, OUTBREAK Chief Executive Officer from UTS.
“This will help us to intervene in ways that will have the greatest positive impact on our health and economy.”