Scientists sound alarm as outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria increase

"A ticking time bomb". That's what an international group of researchers is calling our increasing resistance to antibiotics. 

They're calling for urgent action, after a major study unearthed multiple outbreaks of a deadly drug-resistant pathogen throughout Oceania. 

Lurking within our ward rooms is a growing threat - pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics and even hospital disinfectants.

Researchers say they're spreading and it's time to sound the alarm.

"This is a silent pandemic that we cannot ignore, as it's going to challenge our delivery of healthcare in the future," said immunologist Professor James Ussher, from Otago University.

One pathogen researchers studied called carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii, or CRAB, is already causing serious health issues in some parts of the Pacific.

Scientists say it's time for the world to take notice.

"We identified multiple outbreaks, and a high rate of carbapenem resistance in Fiji and in Samoa and this represents a ticking time bomb for New Zealand and Australia," Prof Ussher told Newshub.

Carbapenems are antibiotics used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections.

The pathogen in question, A. baumannii, can cause infections of the blood, urinary tract and lungs.

And because it's resistant to medicine those infections are difficult to treat - meaning much longer hospital stays.

For some, it even means death.

The researchers are calling for urgent intervention - such as programs to guide appropriate antibiotic use, better surveillance, improved infection-control practices, and public awareness campaigns.

"If New Zealand does not come up with any strategies or solutions to prepare for this, we might face the worst scenario in terms of the mortality rate and morbidity rate," said lead author Sakiusa Baleivanualala, also from Otago University.

Even more alarming is that while effective drugs are emerging overseas, they aren't available everywhere yet.

They say the world needs to work together to have a plan in place.

"Our study revealed that we have to take action now… all hands on deck and starting work now on this issue," Baleivanualala told Newshub.

Before outbreaks spread even further, putting even more pressure on our already-stretched health system.

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