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Superbugs on the hit list for Coast Researcher

With almost 4000 Queenslanders hospitalised this year suffering the flu, a Sunshine Coast researcher is joining the crusade to investigate the overuse of antibiotics.

Infectious Diseases Physician, Associate Professor Jennifer Broom, based at Sunshine Coast University Hospital, received a $50,000 Wishlist grant to undertake a collaborative research project which now involves the University of New South Wales and multiple hospital in New South Wales and Queensland.

“Misuse of antibiotics across Australia and internationally is common (leading to bacterial resistance) and there are limited new antibiotic agents under development,” A/Prof Broom said.

“This means we are facing the very real possibility of a post-antibiotic era.”

“Attempts to influence doctors’ use of antibiotics have seen limited success internationally, yet few studies have explored the reasons why antibiotics are over-prescribed.”

The extensive research programme involved interviews with more than 200 doctors, nurses, managers and pharmacists within the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and four other hospitals in Queensland and New South Wales.

“We found that doctors overprescribe antibiotics out of concern for the immediate patient outcome and that long-term antimicrobial resistance is not really considered in their decision-making,” Dr Broom said.

“Diagnosis can be difficult – for example differentiating the flu from bacterial infections, which leads to overprescribing just in case a bacterial infection is present.

As Antibiotic Awareness Week begins, Australia has been named as having one of the highest rates of antibiotic use in the developed world. According to the World Health Organisation, around 29 million prescriptions are issued every year.

A/Prof Broom’s study has now been published in multiple journals and presented at national and international meetings and is forming the basis of antibiotic prescribing innovations within Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

“The more antibiotics are used the more chance bacteria have to become resistant to them, and this is increasing in Australia and worldwide. If we don’t stop overusing antibiotics, common infections will become untreatable.

“Worldwide, there has been a significant increase in resistant organisms. This means bacterial infections that were once easily cured with antibiotics are becoming harder to treat.

“Reducing our antibiotic use locally will reduce bacterial resistance on the Sunshine Coast.

Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said A/Prof Broom’s study was an important reminder off the back of one of the worst flu seasons in Queensland.

“Wishlist also funded a $151,560 instrument which is now being used in Pathology Queensland’s Microbiology Laboratory at Sunshine Coast University Hospital,” Ms Rowe said.

“The MALDI-TOF instrument ensures the rapid identification of bacteria so doctors can prescribe the most effective antibiotics.

“I know this equipment is regularly used in the Pathology Department and can identify bacteria within 30 minutes, instead of scientists having to wait overnight for results.”

A/Prof Broom’s research project was also supported by an Australian Research Council research grant.

Can you help Wishlist fund more research projects, donate today at wishlist.org.au.