UQ School of Public Health studies Australia’s antibiotic overload

A pilot study led by researchers from the University of Queensland aims to reduce antibiotic resistance in Australia by decreasing the amount of antibiotics prescribed by general practitioners.

The study, Antimicrobial Stewardship and Infection Prevention and Control Initiatives in General Practice, aims to decrease antibiotic-resistance across Australia.

UQ Public Health School
A pilot study led by researchers from the University of Queensland aims to reduce antibiotic resistance in Australia

Study co-author Professor Charles Gilks from the UQ School of Public Health is leading a team of researchers from UQ, Bond University and Queensland University of Technology.

Professor Gilks said most antibiotics were prescribed in a general practice setting, where they were the most common class of medicine prescribed; therefore, GPs were best placed to address the problem.

“Prescribers are well-placed to convey to patients that they are twice as likely to carry resistant bacteria after a course of antibiotics as someone who has not taken them,” Professor Gilks said.

“These resistant bacteria can persist for up to twelve months after antibiotic use, but with no further exposure to antibiotics they will disappear over time.”

The research team will trial a combination of evidence-based interventions that have each been shown to reduce antibiotic prescribing in the general practice setting, and will present a final report to the Department of Health on June 2016.

“In order to preserve one of medicine’s most precious and longstanding resources, GPs must reduce antibiotic use and only prescribe it where appropriate,” Professor Gilks said.

The UQ School of Public Health professor added that new antibiotics were not being developed at a pace that came anywhere close to meeting the impending urgent need.

Australia is one of the highest users of antibiotics per person in the developed world, with approximately 22 million prescriptions written every year in primary care.

Half of all antibiotics prescribed by GPs in Australia are for the management of respiratory conditions, but this treatment is often inappropriate as most respiratory infections are viral and resolve in the same amount of time whether or not an antibiotic is prescribed.

There is a strong link between antibiotic consumption and the rate of antibiotic resistance in patients. So the increase in antibiotic use increases the risk of death for patients who acquire antibiotic-resistant infections.

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