At Cure Kids, we are dedicated to raising funds in order for research to be carried out that will best contribute to our vision of a healthy childhood for everyone. As the Research Manager, I am fortunate enough to have a close connection with all the research projects we fund. I’m also lucky to be able to connect with many of our wonderful ambassadors, many of whom live with the conditions that we’re researching.
In 2014, we became patently aware – via a proposal from Dr Siouxsie Wiles – about the imminent crisis that we (and by we, I mean, everyone) are facing. Over 80 years ago, health research was advanced immeasurably – and with it, health outcomes – when a beautiful collision of science and happenstance would result in the discovery of penicillin from the fungus, penicilium.
Dr Alexander Fleming, the scientist who discovered penicilium, had some ominous words, when accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945, of which we have not taken heed, ‘The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism’.
Dr Fleming, in equal parts wisdom and humility, knew the limitations of his momentous finding. The world has blindly careered into what may become a post-antibiotic era; to the point, now, where there are very few effective bulwarks against what were once treatable, innocuous bugs, but are now pernicious soldiers with an ever-increasing arsenal.
Antibiotics have been a great defence against unwanted visitors for decades. They have been used to prevent infections in routine surgeries, treat preterm babies, as well as provide a defence when patients undergo chemotherapy. The problem is that imprudent use is rendering antibiotics useless. We have all presumed this is a sustainable use of antibiotics; it is not.
Much like other collective-action efforts, such as action on climate change, antibiotic resistance has not been given the time of day – nor funding – it needs.
So many of our Cure Kids ambassadors have compromised immune systems, where they are vulnerable to the invasiveness of these drug-resistant bugs. Cystic fibrosis, a life-limiting inherited lung disorder is characterised by thick mucus build-up in the lungs. This mucus provides an amenable breeding ground for the bug Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with strains arising unperturbed by previous effective treatments.
A multi-pronged attack is required if we are to stave off countless deaths. While medical institutions attempt to be better stewards during prescription, Dr Wiles and her team are scouring the treasure trove of unique fungi located in New Zealand and the South Pacific. These untapped fungi could well hold a solution, and we’d like to do all we can to expedite the process of bringing the world back to an era where antibiotics are once again a powerful force against sophisticated superbugs.
Cure Kids occupy a space which deals with both the lab end, and the clinical end. We are excited to lend our support to Dr Wiles’ quest, as we are all too aware of the havoc these superbugs can wreak on our children. Us adults have reaped the benefits of advances enabled by Dr Fleming’s finding. It is now incumbent upon us to afford these same benefits to our young ones.
Ryan Chandler is Research Manager for Cure Kids – a charity funding vital medical research so everyone can live a healthy childhood. Donate to help.
What is InfectedNZ?
Hey, Aotearoa. It’s time we had a chat about infectious diseases and what we’re going to do about the looming antimicrobial armageddon. That’s why we’ve asked leading health, social and economic researchers, and people with personal stories, to help us get real about our vulnerability and discuss solutions. Follow their blogs right here at tepunhahamatatini.ac.nz and watch the conversation spread across social media with #infectedNZ.
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