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22 June 2021
The Acting Premier, James Merlino, and the Minister for Medical Research, Jaala Pulford, visited Austin Health today to announce funding for a world-first, collaborative trial aiming to track superbugs using genomics sequencing.
The trial will use genomic sequencing to identify the individual ‘genetic fingerprint’ of each superbug so these can be tracked.
Austin Health’s Dr Norelle Sherry said the Controlling Superbugs clinical project is a collaboration between members of the Melbourne Genomics Alliance that involves Austin Health, the Royal Children’s Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Monash Health and the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory (MDU PHL), University of Melbourne at the Doherty Institute..
“Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and can be particularly dangerous to people with compromised immune systems or those who are on medication for long periods to manage infections.
“We screen high risk patients for superbugs when they are admitted to hospital at Austin Health but this new program will enable us to use genomic sequencing to know if patients are infected with the exactly the same superbug.
“Using genomics is the next step in the fight against superbugs and will allow us to quickly identify whether there is a link between infected patients.
“Getting in front of an outbreak before it occurs is crucial so using genomics to help find the source of a superbug faster means we are able to protect patients, particularly our high-risk patients, from the spread of infection,” she said.
One such patient at Austin Health is Eddy Sara, who is at risk of contracting superbugs following a serious operation to reconstruct his pelvis in 2011 after the removal of a tumor.
Eddy is on antibiotics for life following multiple procedures and is the type of patient who the trial is looking to protect.
“Living with the risk of acquiring a superbug means I need to take extra precautions in my everyday life as even things like small cuts can become infected if I don’t treat them carefully,” Eddy said.
“There is always the risk of contracting a superbug so the chance to be monitored through a program like this if I have to come to hospital again will give me an extra layer of protection.
Acting Premier James Merlino said: “This project means better care for our most vulnerable hospital patients, faster diagnosis for people who are desperately looking for answers and more precise treatment.”
“Victoria is leading the world in tracking superbugs and the wider applications of genomic sequencing touch every aspect of our healthcare system.”
The Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Jaala Pulford, said: “Our medical researchers produce results that change and save lives every day – we’ve backed them and we’ll continue to support their amazing efforts.”
For more information about today's announcement click here.