During the COVID-19 pandemic, more broad-spectrum antibiotics were given to people. This caused superbugs to become resistant to these antibiotics. The Hospital Authority of Hong Kong plans to use AI to address a high increase in two superbugs: vancomycin-resistant enterococci and Candida Auris.
South China Morning Post Reports
A report from the South China Morning Post last week confirms the increase in the presence of multidrug-resistant superbugs on an island. This took place due to resource redistribution to combat covid-19 pandemic over the past three years. The chief infection control officer, Dr. Raymong Lai gives his statement to the journalists. He asserts that a good amount of isolation wards are available for COVID-19 patients. However, this leaves a few beds for MDRO-infected patients.
Use of Powerful Antibiotics Make Superbugs More Resistant
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a big increase in the use of powerful antibiotics, which made superbugs more resistant. As per the authority, the rate of antibiotic resistance in vancomycin-resistant enterococci went up from 0.22% in 2021 to 1.2% in 2023.
The number of patients with these germs rose from less than 40 in 2021 to 140 by September 2023. Found in Hong Kong in 2019, Candida auris has seen more people carrying it, rising from almost 200 in 2020 to over 300 by October 31, 2023. Thereafter, Dr. Lai warns that about 10% of those with this fungus might develop serious infections, leading to a risk of death ranging from 53% to 83.3%.
In January 2024, HKKA plans to start an AI pilot at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin and Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung to tackle the issue. This AI will study clinical information to decide on the requirement of antibiotics. Initially, it will focus on one common antibiotic and later expand to eight others, covering 17 public hospitals.
Previously, AI has been employed to address antibiotic resistance. In May 2023, researchers from MIT and McMaster University used AI to discover a new antibiotic. It is capable of eliminating Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacteria causing numerous drug-resistant infections.