THE tuberculosis crisis on Australia’s doorstep will come under the microscope on Monday when the ABC’s Four Corners investigates the rise of superbugs around the world.
The program examines how people’s use of antibiotics the wonder drugs of modern medicine – has actually contributed to the rise of ‘superbugs’, bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics.
In researching the documentary, Four Corners visited Cairns and spoke to Federal MP Warren Entsch, who has been vocal with his concerns about the management of TB in Far North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. Producers also interviewed well-known respiratory physician Dr Stephen Vincent, who knows just how virulent and fatal the disease can be.
“It’s all very well to talk about superbugs around the world but I don’t think the producers realised the urgency of the threat that is right on Australia’s doorstep,” Mr Entsch said.
“I told them to make the effort to visit the South Fly region of the Western Province, as a case study for what can happen when foreign aid health programs are totally mismanaged.
“Speaking to them afterwards, they were blown away by the poverty that exists in these coastal villages and the disgusting state of the health infrastructure. They couldn’t believe that they were within four kilometres of the Queensland border.”
According to the Four Corners program outline, the show investigates “a world dominated by superbugs”.
“Four Corners reporter Geoff Thompson looks at the rise of superbugs, visiting the hot spots around the world where the misuse of antibiotics is creating a breeding ground for these bacteria and he tells the horrific stories of those who’ve contracted infections that can’t be controlled. He also reveals that Australian health officials are making decisions that could open the way for a deadly superbug to infect Australians living in the far north of the country.
“In the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, close to the Australian border, the misuse of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of a superbug form of Tuberculosis. For seven years the Queensland and Federal Governments funded TB clinics for PNG nationals in the Torres Strait. These clinics were the last line of defence that could stop the superbug coming to the Australian mainland. But the closure of these clinics in June this year has left the job of treating TB patients with the PNG Government, funded by AusAID. This could increase the risk of superbug TB coming to Australia.”
“With the newspaper articles last week on Catherina Abraham, and now this Four Corners documentary, it’s very rewarding to see this issue finally getting the national media exposure it needs to get some action underway,” Mr Entsch said.
‘Rise of the Superbugs’ goes to air on Monday 29th October on ABC 1 at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 30th October at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on Saturday at 8.00pm on ABC News 24, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.