Two antibiotics may be last line of defence against superbugs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 September, 2010, 12:00am

A medical team has recommended two antibiotics for use in Hong Kong as a last resort to counter the spread of drug-resistant superbugs and their mutations.

The antibiotics are well established drugs called fosfomycin and polymyxin. Fosfomycin has never been registered in Hong Kong while polymyxin was registered in September last year, so the superbugs may not be resistant to them.

That recommendation, by the Health Protection Programme on Antimicrobial Resistance, will now be studied by a group of scientists under the Centre for Health Protection before being implemented.

Programme chairman Dr Ho Pak-leung yesterday described the two drugs as the 'final-final' line of defence against 'the most virulent drug-resistant bacteria', although he acknowledged both drugs had been used overseas for about 30 years.

Disease-fighters around the world are on the alert after the emergence of new strains of superbugs resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics.

Chinese University microbiology professor Margaret Ip said she thought the two drugs had not been sold in Hong Kong because of a commercial decision by pharmaceutical companies.

Now they would be useful in combating drug resistant superbugs, she said.

In addition to recommending the two antibiotics, the working group made four other suggestions. They include better disinfection methods for hospitals and using social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube to educate the public and alert frontline medical workers about the dangers of the drug-resistant superbugs.

The others are further improving the Antibiotic Stewardship Programme - introduced four years ago to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics by medical workers and patients; and better surveillance in homes for the elderly, which have reportedly seen a mild increase in drug-resistant cases.

The group also called for a stronger emphasis on four major strategic directions - surveillance, infectious control, rational use of antibiotics and community engagement.

The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that all public hospital are adopting for the first time a unified set of guidelines on treating drug-resistant superbugs.