Talking science, sport and superbugs during Antibiotic Awareness Week

14 November 2016

Superbug-infested waters posed a major health threat to sporting superstars at this year's Rio Olympic Games.

But what did this mean for athletes as they competed? And how will it affect their future health and performance?

Brisbane-based sport and science experts will discuss these questions and more during Superbugs at the Olympics on Thursday night (17 November).

The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience Centre for Superbug Solutions is hosting the free community event during Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Event speaker and Triathlon Australia Chief Medical Officer Dr Mark Young will share his experience managing six Australian triathletes and seven Australian para-triathletes at the Rio 2016 Games.

“In Rio, there was concern about the potential bugs that could be acquired from the sea and lake water – affecting sailing, rowing, open water swim and triathlon,” Dr Young said.

“The athletes were educated to take every precaution to prevent illness and injury, because it was recognised that there was a real potential for acquiring not only an infection but also a multi-drug resistant infection.

“For anyone – athlete or community member – it is a roll of the dice whether or not you’re going to get a multi-drug resistant infection.

“Many athletes think infection will not happen to them, but infection is not a choice.

“On rare occasions, infection is season ending, and there are a few examples of it being career ending.”

Event speakers also include Rio Olympic rower and UQ graduate Fiona Albert, and bacterial sepsis survivor and Rio 2016 gold medalist wheelchair rugby Paralympian Chris Bond OAM.

Chris Bond was 19 when he contracted a life-threatening bacterial infection while being treated for a rare form of leukaemia.

Current antibiotics alone were not enough to save Chris. With his life on the line, doctors made the decision to amputate both his legs below the knee, his left wrist and all but one of his fingers on his right hand.

Chris is now one of the world’s best wheelchair rugby players and has become an ambassador for UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience Centre for Superbug Solutions (IMB CSS).

IMB CSS Senior Researcher Dr Mark Blaskovich said the centre was developing new antibiotics that overcome bacterial resistance, and improving diagnostics to help critically ill patients get the drugs they need in time.

“Drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, are one of the greatest challenges to global human health,” he said.

“A recent review on antimicrobial resistance in the UK predicts 10 million excess deaths and economic losses of $US400 billion due to superbugs by 2050 if we do not act soon.”

Register to attend Superbugs at the Olympics.

Media: Ruth Neale,, 07 3346 2389, 0487 955 790

Notes to the editor: Researchers from the IMB CSS are available for interview during Antibiotic Awareness Week (14-20 November).