A new study from Australia suggests that using genomic surveillance technology could detect and slow the evolution and spread of deadly ‘superbugs’, improving global health outcomes. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites no longer respond to the medicines and chemicals used to kill them, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread and death. Without intervention, antimicrobial resistance could cause 10 million annual deaths by 2050, with low and middle-income countries affected the most.
The study emphasizes the need for a ‘One Health’ approach to surveillance, involving multiple disciplines and monitoring antimicrobial resistance in the environment. The research, led by Professor Steven Djordjevic, highlights the complexity of antimicrobial resistance and the need for collaboration to tackle this global threat. Genomic tracing, used during the Covid-19 pandemic, has shown the potential of genomic technologies to monitor the development and spread of antimicrobial genes and mutations.
The study calls for policymakers to establish national genomic surveillance programs spanning various sectors and to share data at national and international levels. The researchers provide practical recommendations to implement genomics-enabled surveillance and mitigation strategies. These recommendations include establishing national surveillance programs, increasing awareness and education about antimicrobial resistance, enhancing laboratory capacity in lower and middle-income countries, encouraging research and innovation, strengthening regulation and oversight in agriculture, and improving antibiotic stewardship.
The study concludes that ongoing genomic surveillance can help us better understand and mitigate the global health challenge of antimicrobial resistance.
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