Genomics, digital health and AI to prevent and treat superbugs

Genomics, digital health and AI to prevent and treat superbugs

A Monash University project will harness the power of technology to help diagnose, treat and prevent one of the most pressing worldwide health issues - antimicrobial resistance.

A team of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (MNHS) Department of Infectious Diseases, the Faculty of Information Technology (IT) and The Alfred’s Department of Infectious Diseases have been awarded $3.4M from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) for the SuperbugAi Flagship project.

With the focus on superbugs during World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week (November 18-24), the innovative project will integrate genomics, electronic healthcare data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to address antimicrobial resistance in the healthcare system.

The research, which will be mainly based at The Alfred, will also create a tracking and response system which will lead to earlier detection of superbugs, personalised treatment for patients and prevention of outbreaks.

SuberbugAi has the potential to save patient lives, prevent superbug spread, and improve healthcare quality, resource use and costs.

Lead researcher, Professor Anton Peleg is one of The Alfred’s leading physician-scientists and is internationally recognised for his work in antimicrobial resistance. Professor Peleg says the project will apply advanced technologies in healthcare settings.

“This combination of transformative technologies in medicine provides us with a unique opportunity to develop the future of healthcare – a smart, learning healthcare system that leverages the tens of thousands of data points per patient and infecting pathogens to help predict treatment responses and patient outcomes.

“This project will push the boundaries of what can be achieved in healthcare and how new technologies can be applied to understand how superbugs infect humans and the way they are transmitted within a hospital system,” said Professor Peleg.

Professor of Practice, Digital Health, Chris Bain, explains the importance of reducing and preventing the spread of superbug infections.

“The WHO have looked at this issue in depth and tell us that currently, 700,000 people die from antimicrobial-resistant infections each year and by 2050, the world could see 10 million deaths annually from previously treatable diseases. The cutting-edge applications of genomics, digital health and AI applied throughout this research will be vital in our progress in reducing superbug infections in the healthcare system,” said Professor Bain.

Monash Data Futures Institute Research Director and Professor of Data Science in the Faculty of IT, Geoff Webb, explains why the healthcare industry needs AI and data science to prepare for the future.

“With the application of AI and data science, we’re positively shaping the future of health in Australia and around the world. Monash has a long history of excellence in the health sciences and this project will continue to further our research breakthroughs changing millions of lives for the better,” said Professor Webb.