Antibiotics are effective agents in the fight against microbial infections. However, their long term use, as well as the misuse, has led to rapid evolution and dissemination of antimicrobial drug resistance. Carbapenems are considered “antibiotics of last resort” for treating patients with nearly untreatable infections. Unfortunately, certain microorganisms are developing resistance against carbapenems by producing carbapenemases, a class of proteins that can breakdown carbapenems, making them ineffective. This group of microorganisms have been named carbapenemase-producing organisms (CPO) and they are considered as superbugs as they pose a serious threat to human health and health care. Untreated CPO infections in humans can lead to increased mortality, longer hospital stays, and increased costs for treatment.
The aim of this project was to use genomics to prevent spread of CPO superbugs in acute health care facilities within BC. The project team developed and implemented new genome sequencing tools to identify cases of CPO at acute healthcare facilities faster and with better accuracy. Moreover, these new tools provide more in-depth data to distinguish infection clusters across facilities and better assess pathways of transmission or travel of these superbugs. This new screening approach is now standard practice the BC Centre for Disease Control Public Health Laboratory and is combined with real-time reporting to stakeholders to improve the acute care facilities’ ability to detect, monitor and respond to CPO transmissions. Altogether, this project serves as a model of how advancing genomic technologies can modernize public health laboratory services and improve clinical best practices.