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Canadian researchers to lead response against antibiotic-resistant bacteria

File - A University of New Brunswick researcher is set to lead Canada's fight against antimicrobial resistance.
File - A University of New Brunswick researcher is set to lead Canada's fight against antimicrobial resistance. AP Photo/David Goldman

Three teams of Canadian researchers are set to help lead the global response to the threat of antimicrobial resistance – better known as drug-resistant infections or bacteria.

The teams will share $300,000 in funding from the Government of Canada, with the main hub at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), federal health minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor announced in Fredericton, N.B., on Friday.

“The Government of Canada is pleased to contribute to research efforts that will help us tackle antimicrobial resistance, one of the most serious global health threats facing the world today,” Pettipas said in a statement.

“This investment will support Canadian researchers who will collaborate with international colleagues as part of the global response to antimicrobial resistance.”

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READ MORE: How superbugs are threatening Canada and the world

Dr. Suzanne Hindmarch, a UNB political scientist studying international relations and global health, and Dr. Malcolm King, scientific director of the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research at the University of Saskatchewan, form the core of one of the teams.

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The two other research teams are from the Université de Sherbrooke and University of Ottawa.

Hindmarch will co-lead a team of mostly Indigenous researchers who will consult with Indigenous organizations in Canada on their perspectives on antimicrobial resistance, the unique issues it poses in their communities and how they would like to be involved in the national and global response.

UNB political scientist Dr. Suzanne Hindmarch will lead a team of Canadian researchers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
UNB political scientist Dr. Suzanne Hindmarch will lead a team of Canadian researchers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Cameron Fitch / UNB Media Services

The UNB professor says she was struck by the absence of Indigenous perspectives when she began researching the topic.

“Because the antimicrobial resistance response is still in its infancy, there’s a tremendous opportunity to work in partnership to build Indigenous leadership into this response from the outset – and to ensure that the response is culturally safe, respectful of Indigenous peoples and well-situated in the larger context of Indigenous health, wellness and sovereignty,” Hindmarch said.

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Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging threat to global health and occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites, change to render drugs used to treat conditions no longer effective.

They’re also sometimes referred to as “superbugs.”

The resistance can undermine the ability to prevent the spread of infections or to perform medical procedures like surgery.

WATCH: Canadian researchers make dent in war on superbugs

Canadian researchers make dent in war on superbugs
Canadian researchers make dent in war on superbugs

Dr. Steven Hoffman, scientific director of the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s Institute of Population and Public Health, said the research is both beneficial and critical for the health of all Canadians.

“This is one of the biggest threats to global public health, food safety and development today, and it is important to remember that anyone, of any age, in any country can be affected,” said Hoffman.

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The work Canadian researchers will do on the subject will be shared globally, presenting a Canadian response to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.