This article is part of a report called Genomics in Victoria: What’s changed in 10 years? The information in this article is current as at October 2023.

Antibiotic-resistant microbes (‘superbugs’) are among the world’s most serious health threats.

Arriving unseen in hospitals, they spread rapidly from one patient to another, causing longer admissions, spiralling hospital costs and even deaths.

A 2015 outbreak of drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae affected patients in multiple hospitals across Victoria. Public health researchers began to wonder whether genomic sequencing could pinpoint which strain of a particular bug was circulating, and what treatment it might respond to.

A landmark Melbourne Genomics study, led by researchers from Austin Health and The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, sequenced the genomes of superbugs detected in multiple hospitals across the state.1 By analysing genomic data alongside patient movement data, the hospital infection control teams could deduce exactly what type of bug was circulating, and how it was moving through the hospital – in time to quickly implement containment measures such as patient isolation and deep cleaning.

Analysing genomic data alongside patient movement data helps infection control teams to track the movement of a specific superbug.

Lessons learnt from the study proved vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Doherty Institute’s Molecular Diagnostic Unit led the public health laboratory response, enabling Victoria to start sequencing COVID-19 samples as early as March 2020 – launching one of the most rapid and comprehensive responses in the world.

A new superbugs study is underway. Having performed a ‘genomic snapshot’ of eight significant drug-resistant pathogens, the research team is now testing ways to speed up the collection of both genomic and patient movement data, and rapidly report this back to hospitals.

Stopping superbug infections in their tracks will protect some of Victoria’s most vulnerable patients.


“Key parameters for genomics-based real-time detection and tracking of multidrug-resistant bacteria: a systematic analysis”, Gorrie, The Lancet Microbe (2021)


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Melbourne Genomics acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, on whose lands we work, and all First Nations peoples across Victoria. We pay respect to Elders past and present. We also acknowledge the First Nations health professionals, researchers and leaders who are shaping the future of genomic medicine.

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