Mutate or die: farewell and thanks, Dr Trent Yarwood

‘Real science from real scientists, communicators, writers, artists, clinicians.’ OK so this year hasn’t seen so much of the latter, until this week where RealScientists featured our first clinician curator, infectious diseases specialist Dr Trent Yarwood of tropical far north Queensland. Trent’s curation coincided (although that suggests it wasn’t planned on our part!) with Antibiotic Awareness Week, tying in with his clinical role as leader of his hospital’s antibiotics stewardship programme. As Trent discussed during his week, these are dark times for antibiotics and the people who love them. mutateordieBacterial resistance to antibiotics is on the rise, aided by antibiotic overprescription and overuse in non-medical applications such as agriculture; rather than breeding contempt, familiarity breeds resistance, through selective pressure on bacteria to evolve a way around the challenge each antibiotic poses. Mutate or die, as Luger Boa put it. Added to that, pharmaceutical companies have bailed out of developing new antibiotics, due to the poor return on investment that antibiotics provide – expensive to develop, rapid obsolescence due to resistance, and the likely markets are largely poor third world countries…. at the moment, anyway. It’s been left up to academic research labs to take up the challenge of developing new antibiotics – often by recycling, redesigning or repurposing old antibiotics for new niches or new targets.

New antibiotic drug approvals. Yes, this graph has a dodgy Y axis, but you get the point.

All this means it’s critical to make the best use of the antibiotics we have; don’t prescribe them inappropriately, and save the tactical weapons for when they’re really needed. Making what people like Trent do as important to the science of solving infectious diseases as anything done in a research lab. For that, and for a tremendous week on the account, we thank Trent. Keep following him on his personal account @trentyarwood, and if you missed anything this week catch up on Storify: Part 1 | Part 2.

Next week: Hannah Thompson.

Superbugs, stewardship and sci-fi: welcome Dr Trent Yarwood to RealScientists

Our curator for this coming week is Dr Trent Yarwood, infectious diseases clinician by day, public health specialist by night… or something like that. We’ll let Trent introduce himself:
I work half-time as an infectious diseases physician in a public hospital.  I finished my specialist training at the end of 2011, and graduated from UQ’s graduate medical course.  My undergrad was in lab science – originally picked because I wanted a backup plan in case I didn’t get in to med school.  I very much enjoyed lab science and while I was at uni vacillated between wanting to do medical research and pathology, but I had the chance to do an elective with the infectious diseases team and (although it sounds cheesy) realised that you could see patients and keep in touch with the micro lab by working as an ID doctor.
It’s traditional in Brisbane for infectious disease doctors to also be trained as microbiologists – and despite my science training – the right fit for me was to do something a little bit different, so I’m currently doing further training half-time in public health medicine.  I’ve always been more interested in preventive medicine rather than cure and I think public health is a natural extension of that. Combining clinical medicine with public health seems like a good fit to me – although I’ll probably tweet at some time during the week about some of the difficulty trying to cross two disciplines.
My clinical work involves me being responsible for our hospital’s antibiotic stewardship program – which is a program to try and improve how antibiotics are used.  This will hopefully mean better outcomes for patients, less antibiotic resistance as well as some cost saving.  I plan on talking about antibiotic resistance a bit – especially given that I’m tweeting during antibiotic awareness week.  I also do an HIV clinic a week; this helps keep me sane, as I’m spending a lot of my “clinical” time at the hospital doing paperwork and procedural stuff as our stewardship program is quite new.
Outside of work I spend my time running after my two boys (4 and 7 months) and sleeping.  I’ve been finding it quite tough to get any work done at home this year because after the bedtime routine is done, I often just fall asleep.  If I manage to keep myself awake, I’m a bit of a stereotyped geek;  I read science-fiction and play video games.  My sporting outlet is at the local university fencing club (just to carry on the stereotype) – which I’ve been doing intermittently since I was an undergraduate.
Thanks very much for having me, and I look forward to chatting with everyone about antibiotics and whatever else comes up!

Hopefully no nasty rashes come up. If so, Trent requests you go and see a doctor. Don’t just tweet at one on the internet.