New research on antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics are the go to medicine for treating common bacterial infections, but as you know from our superbug article some bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotic treatments. Research from Monash University in Melbourne is now showing that some strains of golden staph are changing their molecular shape to negate the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Scientists have confirmed this resistance is occurring because the bacteria (golden staph) is mutating to corrupt the antibiotic binding site.

Antibiotics attack infection by binding to the bacterial cell and blocking its ability to make protein. The bacterium cannot survive without the production of protein. In the case of antibiotic-resistant golden staph the molecular shape of bacteria changes to stop this attachment from being effective.


Under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2013, 10 million Australian’s were dispensed antibiotics. These statistics have raised concerns with the government. This is due to the over or misuse of antibiotics being a significant contributor to the emergence of resistance bacterium like golden staph.


What is Golden Staph?

In Australian hospitals the most common bacterium found is the Staphylococcus aureus (or golden staph). Many people encounter this bacterium but most are unaffected by it. The problem is when golden staph enters the blood stream it can cause serious and sometimes deadly infection.

Hospital patients who have a greater risk of infection from this bacterium are those with:

  • Open wounds
  • Invasive devices (such as catheters)
  • Weakened immune systems (as seen in the elderly and children)
  • Chronic disease or severe illness such as asthma
  • Prolonged antibiotic use or reoccurring use

Between 2014-15 nearly 1500 patients contracted a golden staph infection in Australian public hospitals. Of these cases 78% were untreatable using common antibiotics and 1 in 5 were resistant to antibiotics completely.

These ‘superbugs’ are presenting a global health threat due to their resistant to even the most modern antibiotics. The World Health Organisation has warned that deaths from antimicrobial resistance could rise to 10 million world-wide by 2050.

Studying how golden staph is mutating and evading the effects of antibiotics is the first step in new drug design and understanding how superbugs begin to form. Other fatal illnesses including influenza, HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis have also started to show resistance to treatments.