Multi-drug resistant bacteria are threatening the gains of modern medicine. Hosam Zowawi is fighting back with rapid superbug tests and a communications plan for the Gulf states.
Hosam Zowawi is face-to-face with a serial killer: in his laboratory in Brisbane, Australia, he is studying one of the most lethal microbes known to science, a strain of a typical hospital pathogen that is now virtually incurable. For the young Saudi Arabian scientist, the multi-drug resistant bacteria are the front line in a personal battle against one of the greatest threats to human health of the 21st century.
Without the public’s informed and willing cooperation, our best antibiotics may become useless.
All over the world resistant superbugs are multiplying due to over-prescription of antibiotics, the casual availability of antibiotics over the pharmacy counter, gaps in hand-hygiene compliance in hospitals, a burgeoning travel industry and low public understanding of the risks.
Zowawi is developing and commercializing fast and broad tests for antibiotic resistance, and educating the public and healthcare profession about the risks posed by resistance – and how to prevent it. Considered a pioneer in his field, Zowawi was recognized as a Time magazine Next Generation Leader in 2014. In 2016, he joined fellow Young Laureate Francesco Sauro on a caving expedition to Amazonia to study microbial ecology. He will compare the genetics of cave bacteria with those heavily exposed to antibiotics. This will provide further insights about the evolution of superbugs, which might suggest novel combating strategies.
Countries where drug-resistant tuberculosis has been identified
Estimated annual new cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis
People who die each year in Europe and North America from drug-resistant infections