Tailored treatments a new way to fight superbugs

14 Jun 2016

Superbug research from Monash University and The University of Queensland could change the way critically ill patients across the world are treated. 

UQ researcher Professor Jason Roberts said tailoring treatment regimens with available antibiotics to individual patients’ needs and using higher-than-standard doses where necessary could help combat the rise of superbug bacterial infections.

Monash’s Dr Phillip Bergen said superbugs were a serious problem, particularly in critically ill patients.

“If current trends continue, by 2050 they will kill 10 million people every year,” he said.

He said the development of new antibiotics was decreasing, making it difficult for clinicians to select antibiotic regimens that would save patients’ lives.

Monash researcher Dr Cornelia Landersdorfer said superbugs posed a particular threat to critically ill patients with impaired kidney function.

“Processes to augment their kidney function can mean they eliminate antibiotics faster from the body, which can result in antibiotic concentrations that are too low to combat the bacterial infection,” she said.

“Our research exposed bacteria to rising and falling blood concentrations of antibiotics over time that occur in critically ill patients with a wide range of kidney functions

“It suggested that even the highest approved daily dose of the commonly used antibiotic piperacillin/tazobactam given via the usual method was ineffective for patients with augmented kidney function.  

“The traditional dose resulted in increased resistance in those with normal kidney function, which would worsen the problem in a patient. Only the highest approved dose was effective.”

Professor Roberts said the research suggested that individualised antibiotic treatment regimens were superior for treating patients and preventing resistance, which would help preserve the usefulness of current antibiotics.

“Our findings highlight the importance of taking account of physiological changes in critically ill patients that can lead to a reduced effectiveness of antibiotics,” he said. 

The research, led by Monash’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety and UQ’s Burns Trauma and Critical Care Research Centre, was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and is published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Professor Roberts said it is an essential component of UQ’s REDUCE Centre of Research Excellence which is also funded by the NHMRC.

Media: Professor Jason Roberts j.roberts2@uq.edu.au, or Brian Mallon, School of Medicine communications manager, b.mallon@uq.edu.au, +61 (0) 403 621 109.