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Antibiotic resistance

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics and resist their effects. Like any other bacteria, resistant bacteria can be transmitted between people in close proximity such as family and household members and can cause severe infections.

Antibiotic resistance currently causes 30,000 avoidable deaths per year in Europe and the USA, and will overtake cancer in 2050. It threatens elective surgery, and foreshadows a resurgence of the bacterial diseases of the 19th century, with primary care becoming a major contributor to the problem.

Antibiotic resistance

Current research

In November 2018, we were awarded a $2.5M Centre of Research Excellence in Minimising Antibiotic Resistance in the Community (CRE-MARC) to translate and extend this work in 5 Research Streams: (1&2) translation and uptake of our previous studies in Acute Respiratory Infections; 3) extend our scope to urinary tract infections, skin infections; 4) Aged Care Facilities.

Three major obstacles remain to reducing antibiotic use in Australian primary care:

  1. the poor adoption of several effective interventions for improving ARI prescribing, which emphasises that the next steps should be implementation research focussed on improving uptake of these interventions into practice;
  2. the need to broaden the focus beyond minimising antibiotic use in just acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and to include the two other major antibiotic indications in primary care – skin and soft-tissue infections (SSTIs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs); and
  3. the well-known, but little understood, problem of very high use of antibiotics in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs).

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Past research

Our previous NHMRC CRE in Minimising Antibiotic Resistance for Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) - CREMARA (2012-2018), generated new knowledge about ARIs and antibiotic use in general practice.

Our research focussed on five main areas:

  1. Benefits and harms of antibiotics: updated reviews of benefits and new systematic reviews of harms will be done to correct the insufficient focus on harms which has distorted clinicians’ and patients’ benefits-harms judgement.
  2. Physical barriers: key elements of effective physical barrier interventions will be analysed in a meta-regression.
  3. Pharmaceutical packaging of antibiotics: we will research current packaging effects and community behaviours contributing to antibiotic resistance.
  4. Construction and validation of a causal model to determine relative contributions of each source of resistance and potential effect of each intervention. This will be informed by research in Areas 1-3 and epidemiological data.
  5. Development and evaluation of interventions to minimise antibiotic resistance: numerous innovative interventions, informed by research in Areas 1-4, and aimed at clinicians, patients, policy-makers and other key stakeholders, will be developed and evaluated.

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