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Drug - resistant microbes raise concerns

For some time now, concern has been raised by health authorities around the world about the increasing tendency of some disease-causing microbes to become drug resistant, especially to antibiotics //.

An Australian study has found that the majority of people are already harboring bacteria that are drugs resistant.

Simon Lauder reports, that the ability of the mutated microorganisms to resist antibiotics is an ever-growing universal problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the bugs that cause infections may have built up the antibiotics resistance within the past decades. New research shows more than 90 percent of healthy people carry bacteria, which are drug resistant. These findings calls for quick actions from the politicians.

Professor Ruth Hall from Sydney University and Professor Hatch Stokes of Macquarie University studied E. Coli bacteria sourced from 65 people who had not used antibiotics for a minimum period of six months. The following is a conversation between professor Hatch Stokes, John Tapsall, a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, and reporter Simon Lauder, for the Australian radio.

HATCH STOKES: "Even if a person had never taken antibiotics in their life - I know that's relatively unlikely these days - but even if that had happened, I'd be relatively confident that such people would have acquired E. Coli that are multi-drug resistant.In other words, again, you know when we eat food, when we interact with the environment, really in any form whatsoever, we get bacteria on our skin, we ingest bacteria. Generally speaking, healthy bacteria in our gut, being multi-drug resistant is not a problem to a healthy individual.

But of course, if you take a situation where people go into a hospital, they're obviously sick for some reason, their bodies are stressed, they're potentially immuno-compromised and people get infections in hospitals that a normal healthy individual wouldn't otherwise acquire.

So it's the hospital setting, and the fact that multi-drug resistance genes can get in at presumably such a high frequency, I think, is the... you know, one of the main causes of concern."

SIMON LAUDER: "So does this answer the mystery somewhat, as to where the resistance is coming from - in hospitals?"

HATCH STOKES: "Well, not entirely. I think the problem of multi-drug resistance in hospitals is a relatively complex one, but it is certainly the case that the fact that humans, when they go into hospital, are carrying multi-drug resistant genes with them - in a sense, the resistance genes are kind of walking into the hospital with their patient - is one other aspect of the puzzle that I guess clinicians and people who are concerned about infection control in hospitals need to be aware of ".

SIMON LAUDER: "Professor John Tapsall is a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which advises the Commonwealth on what action to take.He says that, the finding that the vast majority of people carry resistant bugs is a major concern."

JOHN TAPSALL: "We really do have to redouble our efforts and have a concerted and integrated approach to the control of these organisms."

SIMON LAUDER: "While the bugs keep adapting to overcome the drugs that kill them, Professor Tapsall says Australia's health ministers seem to have lost interest."

JOHN TAPSALL: "It's very hard to get this onto the Commonwealth agenda or the states' agendas, although there have been desultory attempts at doing it.I think it's fair to say that the issue got quite a kick-along for a few years, but it's languished in the last couple of years."

SIMON LAUDER: "Professor Ruth Hall will present her findings to the annual conference of the Australian Society for Microbiology next month, where she'll also be honoured for her contribution to the field."


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