Developing drugs to fight superbugs

31 Oct 2012

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or 'superbugs' as they are more commonly known, are an increasing problem throughout the world.

IMB's Professor Matt Cooper is calling on all Australians to do their part to reduce the spread of superbugs as we mark Antibiotic Awareness Week this November 12-18.

Antibiotic Awareness Week is a worldwide initiative that seeks to raise the profile of these important drugs and what we can do to stop bacteria becoming resistant.

Professor Matt Cooper from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is developing new antibiotics to combat superbugs, which are bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics.

“The majority of antibiotics are actually derived from other species of bacteria,” Professor Cooper said.

“Billions of years ago, bacterial species were engaged in an arms race against each other and the chemicals they developed to kill one another have been modified into today’s antibiotics.

“These antibiotics are a precious natural resource and should be treated as such.”

Overuse of antibiotics is one of the key reasons that bacteria develop resistance and become superbugs.

More than 19 million prescriptions for antibiotics are written each year in Australia, one of the highest rates in the world.

National Prescribing Service (NPS) Medicinewise is organising Antibiotic Awareness Week in Australia, with information on antibiotic resistance and a pledge to use antibiotics wisely.

To find out more about superbugs and show your support this Antibiotic Awareness Week, go to:

Antibiotic Awareness Week - November 12 -18

Antibiotic Action petition - British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Better Health page on improved handwashing to stop the spread of infectious disease - Victorian Government

ABC's The Drum story on superbugs (published Nov 5, 2012)

4 Corners story on superbugs (aired Oct 29, 2012)

The Conversation Explainer: What are antibiotics? (published Oct 29, 2012)


The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.


For more information, to donate to or collaborate with Professor Cooper’s lab, please call (07) 3346 2132 or email