Superbugs – No more!
(RBWH Head of Antimicrobial Stewardship and A/Director, Statewide Stewardship Network Dr Krispin Hajkowicz, photo from this tweet by Queensland Health Media team)
I flew to Brisbane yesterday (and back, very happy the kids got me up at 6 this morning) for the launch of Antibiotic Awareness Week next week. Initially, it was going to be a Queensland Health launch for AAW, but the team at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Biosciences got on board and turned the day into a multi-disciplinary conference. Well done to Krispin Hajkowicz and the team at IMB for pulling it all together. In some ways, it was a bit of a shame – I would have liked to have heard some of the basic science sessions as well, but I spent my day in the clinical stream, talking about how we can improve antibiotic stewardship in Queensland. The perils of concurrent sessions!
Interstate visitors included Professor John Turnidge – who is coordinating the Australian national response to antibiotic resistance with ACSQHC and Professor Tania Sorrell, Director of the Marie Bashir Institute at the University of Sydney.
Even before the official opening of the proceedings, I was struck (again) by the gap between public perception of resistance and those of us in the field. During the welcome to country, one of RBWH’s Indigenous Liaison officers (his name isn’t in the program, and I’ve forgotten it – someone please pop it in the comments, and I’ll edit the post!) was welcoming us, and he admitted that he’s someone who “never finishes my course – but I promise I’ll try to get better if you mob keep up your good work”.
During Prof Turnidge’s talk, he again highlighted that our message on antimicrobial resistance isn’t cutting through. Research on public engagement with science by the Wellcome Trust found that people don’t respond to the terms “superbug” or “antibiotic resistance” and that we need to make stories less about economic and health system catastrophe and more about personal stories (“your uncle’s hip replacement wouldn’t have been possible without antibiotics”. The slides from the full report are well worth checking out.
(As an aside, those of you who know me well and parody my “of course you don’t need antibiotics” attitude should note that Prof Turnidge said during the day he believes that basically no young adults should ever receive antibiotics for anything unless they’re in hospital)
I spent the rest of the day in the clinical stewardship stream, and if interested, you should check out my conference notes on Storify.
Queensland really is leading the nation in its response to antimicrobial resistance, and it’s something I think that’s going to make a huge difference. The nuts and bolts of the program will be that there will be a 24-hour antibiotic advice line, to provide assistance to hospitals / health centres without infectious diseases specialists. As you can see from this slide from my presentation, that’s most of them:
(Image from my presentation; map from Google Maps; Qld Govt Powerpoint template)
There will also be nursing and pharmacy support, and the program will be able to provide assistance to facilities throughout Queensland to set up their own stewardship programs.
As someone who works in a regional area, I think this is a fantastic idea. For a state so decentralised as Queensland, it’s great to see Brisbane making a commitment to ensuring that remote areas have access to similar services as people in the major centres can get.
I look forward to more info about the program, and hopefully to be further involved with rolling it out.