A potentially lethal antibiotic-resistant strain of golden staph bacteria is becoming a serious threat to the health of Indigenous Australians in remote parts, according to research by a PhD candidate.
Dr Steven Tong, who will be awarded a PhD from Charles Darwin University at its upcoming October graduation ceremony, explored the epidemiology of golden staph in northern Australia and has developed molecular tools (genetic fingerprinting techniques) to discriminate different clones.
Dr Tong, a Research Fellow with the Menzies School of Health Research, said the annual incidence of golden staph bloodstream infections was six times higher in the Indigenous community compared with the non-Indigenous population.
He said that overcrowded houses, poor hygiene and high rates of skin infections were the most likely reason for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains.
“It is likely that these antibiotic-resistant golden staph strains have arisen in remote Indigenous communities where staphylococcal disease is highly prevalent,” he said.
“Investigations into alternative treatments effective against these strains for staphylococcal skin disease in remote communities are currently underway.”
Dr Tong said the number of infections in Aboriginal communities was reaching epidemic proportions.
“To actually combat this we need to get out into the communities and have community level interventions,’ he said.
“And in particular in the Northern Territory that will involve improving housing and housing standards, making sure that houses have adequate facilities to actually wash children and improve their skin hygiene.”