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  • Fresh push to stop 'silent pandemic' of superbugs

    Author: AAP

There are fears a "silent pandemic" of antimicrobial resistance could kill millions globally within decades, prompting a plea for greater action in Australia.

The overuse or misuse of antibiotics can lead to medication becoming ineffective against certain bacteria and other microbes, meaning simple infections or surgeries become extremely risky.

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About 5000 deaths each year in Australia and more than 1.27 million deaths around the world are linked to resistance, according to a CSIRO report offering solutions to the looming health crisis.

Research from the national science agency and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences highlights the need for better coordination to tackle the problem, which has been described as a "silent pandemic".

Greater emphasis needs to be placed on commercial sectors stepping in with new technology, the research says.

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It calls for better surveillance systems, vaccine production and diagnostic practices, as well as the prevention of the spread of superbugs through improved design of high-risk settings like farms and hospitals.

Examples include toilets that sense and deal with harmful microbes before they reach waterways or surface sprays that change colour if a pathogen is present.

"(Antimicrobial resistance) could render some of the most critical antimicrobial drugs ineffective, undermining modern medicine and making us vulnerable to drug-resistant infections," according to lead author Branwen Morgan from the CSIRO.

"This report calls out the key challenges and opportunities for Australia to improve how we prevent, detect, diagnose and respond to drug-resistant infections and reduce the impacts."

Research is already under way into new types of antibiotics, but it's feared that alone will not be enough.

Other recommendations included creating a central body to track antimicrobial resistance, developing national policy and standards and ramping up public messaging.

"(Antimicrobial resistance) doesn't respect national, state, or sectoral boundaries," the report said.

"It is critical that solutions are designed from a 'one health' perspective, acknowledging the undeniable interplay between humans, animals and the environment.

"This will be key to making sure that in creating a solution for one sector, a problem is not being generated for another."

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