When strains of the potentially deadly golden staph bacteria stopped responding to antibiotics in the 1960s, doctors scrambled to find a solution.
Fast forward to today and the treatment for people infected with antibiotic-resistant golden staph has not advanced. Once the infection reaches the bloodstream, one in three Australians will die, while in other countries, it's closer to 50 percent.
A study into a promising new combination of anitibiotics has been released not by a global pharmaceutical company or a government, but from volunteers in a handful of Australian hospitals.
Without much financial backing, Australian doctors, microbiologists and infectious disease experts got together to investigate the new antibiotic combination -- with hope it could rewrite the book on staph treatment.
Westmead Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr Matthew O’Sullivan said volunteers were compelled to undertake the study.
"It happened pretty much by the goodwill of the team in various hospitals around the country," O'Sullivan said.
"It's an infection that is often picked up by people in hospitals and the fact that we don't really have a very effective treatment for it is frustrating.
"We pretty much got together and said we have to find a better treatment."
The pilot study found the new combination cut down the time the infection survived in the bloodstream by 35 percent. The possibility of decreasing the mortality rate has led to a wider study being funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
O’Sullivan said it could rewrite the book on treating this common infection.
“I would envisage that if the study goes as expected, it will change the way people are treated with this infection all around the world,” O’Sullivan said.
As for the actual drug combination, Menzies School of Health Research Global and Tropical Health doctor Joshua Davis said it simply should not work.
“Standard treatment for drug-resistant golden staph infection involves using a drug called vancomycin, which is not all that powerful against the MRSA strain,” Dr Davis said in a statement.
“In a new approach, we are re-purposing an old, inexpensive drug for new, antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
“In this case, we have added a penicillin-like beta-lactam drug to vancomycin; our study revealed that when vancomycin and a beta-lactam are combined, they work together."