Media ReleaseFrom: Telethon Kids Institute
Infectious disease experts from around Australia are calling for urgent action to address antibiotic resistance before it has a dangerous impact on remote Aboriginal communities.
Research has shown these remote towns have Australia’s highest rates of antibiotic resistance to bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) – around 50 per cent are resistant compared to 15 per cent elsewhere throughout the country – and according to an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, it’s due to the heavy burden of infectious diseases combined with high rates of antibiotic use.
Associate Professor Asha Bowen, Head of Skin Health at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases based at the Telethon Kids Institute, led the first antimicrobial stewardship audits in the remote sector alongside partner organisations.
“Previous studies have shown that 50 per cent of Aboriginal children in remote communities have at least six antibiotic prescriptions by their first birthday, treating a range of conditions including respiratory tract infections, skin sores and ear infections,” said Assoc. Prof Bowen.
“We need updated, timely, high quality data about how antimicrobials are being used in the most remote parts of Australia to learn how big the problem really is – what we can see from current data mostly gained from hospitalised patients is only the tip of the iceberg.
“We already know that if we can’t slow the spread of antibiotic resistance to deadly pathogens in these remote communities, we will come to a point where there just aren’t any treatment options available to save the lives of people suffering life-threatening infections.
“The only way forward is a co-ordinated approach nation-wide, collating information to help us understand the true magnitude of the problem and prompting action to move skills and resources into the sectors that need it most.
“This will ensure the necessary frameworks are developed and the knowledge is there to stay on top of the antibiotics being prescribed according to resistance problems in the area,” said Assoc. Prof Bowen.
Co-author Royal Melbourne Hospital Clinician Researcher Associate Professor Steven Tong from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), says the hardest part is finding the right balance in this generation of antimicrobial resistance.
“We don’t want to discourage people from seeking treatment and taking antibiotics when they need them – we want to encourage healthcare providers to prescribe the right medications, to the right patients, for the right indication and for the correct duration of time,” said Assoc. Prof Tong.
“We also acknowledge antimicrobial resistance can’t be addressed in isolation - the drivers come down to the social determinants of health such as living conditions and access to clean water. The problem is all encompassing and we all need to work together to solve it.”
The research was carried out thanks to funding by the HOT NORTH Improving Health Outcomes in the Tropical North research program at Menzies School of Health Research.