SUPER BUGS: New government funding will help researchers address problems of antimicrobial resistance is urgently needed.
SUPER BUGS: New government funding will help researchers address problems of antimicrobial resistance is urgently needed.

Government joins the worldwide battle against 'superbugs'

REDUCING resistance to 'superbugs', particularly for people living within aged care facilities, has moved up the ranks of priorities with the Federal Government as the worldwide problem becomes more prevalent in Australia.

The Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt has confirmed two research projects will tackle finding out how these infections spread within aged care homes, and between those facilities, hospitals and other settings. Researchers will also look at the impact of visitors to aged care homes.

Mr Wyatt has acknowledged there a variety of factors which contribute to both a high use of antibiotics and a heightened risk of infection, including from drug-resistant bacteria. These include the close living proximity of residents, multiple medical conditions, poor immune systems, poor mobility, and frequent transfer of residents to and from hospitals. 

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Tony Baltone said these research projects reflect the need to address the increasing problem of antimicrobial resistance. "Australia is not immune and because of the global nature of our society, antimicrobial resistance is transporting around," Dr Baltone said.

"This has led to increasing rates of resistance. We are now facing the pointy end of the situation where there are in some cases two, three or four different antibiotic resistance strains in the one patient and we need to be very clear that we become more judicious in the use of antibiotics and respecting the fact that there isn't the pipeline of new drugs or new developments to get us out of the spot of trouble in the future."

Developing health literacy and information for medical personnel and patients can only be beneficial for everyone as they gain better understanding and learn about managing what a concerned Dr Baltone describes as "an increasing problem".

"In terms of aged care facilities, we do know they are unfortunately under significant pressures in a number of different areas - infrastructure, resourcing and workforce," Dr Baltone said. "This potentially highlights systemic issues that also need to be addressed to help to ensure we have the opportunity to have the ongoing, excellent care and standards continued in the care of our increasing elderly population that are in these aged care facilities."

Dr Baltone sees these research projects as just one element of the complex aged care situation that needs to be addressed through a multi-faceted approach.

The two research projects to be undertaken are -

  • The South Australian Medical Research Institute, by associate professor Geraint Rogers, will look at different modes of transmission of resistant bacteria and inform future strategies to limit the spread of antimicrobial resistance in residential aged care facilities
  • Dr Henrietta Venter's team from the University of South Australia will measure the spread of resistant bacteria, including in wastewater to develop antimicrobial resistance risk assessments and guide future policy controls to curb the spread of antimicrobial resistance to, within and from residential aged care facilities.

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