In an attempt to beat the superbug Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacteria that causes life-threatening pneumonia resistant to antibiotics, researchers have decoded the bacteria’s entire genome, identifying the regions responsible for antibiotic resistance.
The study by Brian Forde at the University of Queensland in Australia is one of 10 finalists in this year’s Queensland Fresh Science — a national competition helping researchers in early stages of their career to share their findings.
The results could advance the search for new treatments for the infection caused by the bacterium, which is resistant to all commercially available antibiotics.
“As more people use antibiotics, the more the bugs or bacteria they treat become resistant to those antibiotics. We are seeing bacteria in hospitals rapidly evolve to become resistant to an antibiotic in response to treatment,” he said.
Using a method called Single Molecule Real Time (SMRT), Forde and his team could identify the regions in the genome that changed, introducing resistance to antibiotics. According to Forde, the method could be used by hospitals to test bacteria and determine which antibiotics a bacterial strain is resistant to.
“This is good news for the patient as they will heal sooner and it is good news for global health as it means less indiscriminate use of antibiotics leading to further resistance,” Forde said.
“I am excited by the tangible results of my research which have a real chance of changing how we approach and use antibiotics,” he added, speaking about how tailored treatment could prevent the development of a situation where even a simple infection by today’s standards could become life-threatening if all the antibiotics we have are useless.
Forde hopes the method will be available for clinical use within a couple of years.
“By turning to science, we can help our medical practitioners deliver the best treatment possible and this science is making real advancement towards antibiotic resistance, which is a fight we need to win,” said Dr. Geoff Garrett, Queensland chief scientist, as he congratulated Forde and his team on their successful effort.