Health authorities will this week launch a $10 million campaign to fight the rising problem of superbugs - various disease-causing bacteria that are developing increasing resistance to antibiotics. Raymond Yung Wai-hung, head of the Centre for Health Protection's infection control branch, said fighting the problem of drug resistance was one of the major tasks facing his team in the coming year. The 'toughest' part would be controlling the use of antibiotics in the community. Dr Yung said the centre, the Hospital Authority and the University of Hong Kong would work together to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics and track down superbugs in both hospitals and the community. At present, one-fifth of patients admitted to the city's public hospitals were prescribed antibiotics, Dr Yung said. 'We don't know where the weakest link [in the drug resistance problem] is, but we know that the biggest consumption of antibiotics is in hospitals,' he said. Under a three-pronged approach, the centre and the authority have set up an 'antibiotic stewardship programme' at all public hospitals. Doctors who prescribe any of eight kinds of broad-spectrum antibiotics will have to complete a form giving the reasons for their prescriptions. The hospitals' microbiologists and pharmacists will then check to see if the drug is suitable and give feedback to the clinicians. The second element will be to compare the volume of the medicine prescribed in various hospitals, to establish patterns of use, and the third will be the establishment of a city-wide database on antibiotics' resistance. Apart from the public hospitals, some private hospitals have agreed to join the programme. Hospital laboratories will report to the centre once they isolate bacteria that shows drug resistance. According to Dr Yung, Hong Kong is at the forefront of the battle against drug resistance. 'I don't think any country has set up a kind of territory-wide database on antibiotic resistance. We are actually among the first to do so,' he said. Dr Yung could not say whether there was any abuse of antibiotics in the community at present because there was no data. He said surveillance of antibiotics use in the private sector would be the 'toughest part'. 'It is very difficult to get antibiotics data from general practitioners. In public hospitals, doctors' prescriptions can be checked by pharmacists,' he said. 'But in the private sector, doctors prescribe and dispense medicine by themselves; there is no separate pharmacy record. 'Unless we can go through all the clinical notes, we don't know what exactly private doctors prescribe,' he said, adding that it would invade patients' privacy. 'And not all the community pharmacies have computerised their records, and it is also very difficult to check their sales records.' The centre would also launch a community education programme modelled on the American Centres for Disease Control's 'Get Smart' project.