August 16, 2021

Superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria) can arrive unseen in hospitals in the skin or gut of unaffected patients, and spread to more vulnerable patients who can become seriously ill.

The Melbourne Genomics Controlling Superbugs clinical project recently published key parameters for using genomic sequencing to detect superbug outbreaks occurring in hospitals in real time.

Controlling Superbugs is the first project worldwide to incorporate multiple sites and multiple organisms, detecting more than 600 transmissions that would not have been found in routine tests.

The paper, published in The Lancet Microbe, addresses the lack of guidelines and standardisation in prospective workflows for using genomic sequencing to track superbug outbreaks.

“Through the systematic assessment of approaches, we have been able to propose guidelines for future use,” said lead author Dr Claire Gorrie of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute.

“The guidelines enable any future implementation projects using genomics to track superbugs to draw from standardised analysis approaches, rather than creating bespoke analyses for each new investigation.”

“Establishing a broadly applicable and standardised approach is a key step to the widespread implementation of genomic testing to track superbugs,” said Dr Gorrie.

Controlling Superbugs involved eight hospitals across four health networks – Austin Health, Monash Health, Melbourne Health and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The Controlling Superbugs team is led by Professor Lindsay Grayson of Austin Health, Professor Benjamin Howden of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit Public Health Laboratory at the Doherty Institute and Dr Norelle Sherry of Austin Health and the Doherty Institute.

Read the full paper here.

For more details on the superbugs project, read insights from the first project here and the announcement by the Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, Jaala Pulford, here.


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