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Research shows drug resistant sepsis is killing newborns

Photo: Drug resistant sepsis is killing newborns
It is estimated around 700,000 people a year globally die from drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Newborn babies are among those at greatest risk of dying from bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics and Australians are being reminded to use the medication as a "precious" resource.

It is estimated around 700,000 people a year die from drug resistant infections, antibiotic research specialist Dr Manica Balasegaram said.

He said another study estimated at least 240,000 deaths were in newborn babies.

"This is one of the most affected populations for antimicrobial resistance," said Dr Manica .

One of the major concerns for newborns is neonatal sepsis, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream.
In October 2017, medical journal The Lancet published a paper that said neonatal sepsis was the cause of "substantial" morbidity and mortality.

While not a major concern in Australia because of the good health care system, it was a "significant" issue for neighbouring countries, said Dr Manica.

"In many parts of the world including in the Asia Pacific region and also the Indo Pacific region there's very significant concerns about drug resistant neonatal sepsis," he said.

The director of Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP) - which was set up by the World Health Organisation - says the the problem of antimicrobial resistance isn't just the responsibility of academics and public health officials; it is a societal issue.

"Society plays are role because it's us - we the people who are the consumers of antibiotics, so we also have to understand that antibiotics are precious resource, they belong to all of us."

He said antibiotics were designed to treat specific problems and not required for a viral infection.

"Now we are realising taking antibiotics is not a risk-free thing, they are here to treat important and serious infections but if you use them trivially there is a cost," said Dr Manica.

The trained emergency physician, who worked as a field doctor in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia for Doctors Without Borders for many years, made the plea to Australians while visiting Australia to talk to government officials and academics on the critical need for investment into the development of new antibiotics.

"We have to be sensible and aware that a precious resource needs to be used in the right way, it's not just something that we utilise when we don't feel well," he said.


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