New Report from CSIRO & MTPConnect’s AAMRNet Reveals Deaths by Drug-Resistant Infections Higher than Previous Estimates

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16 November 2022

We are kicking off World Antimicrobial Awareness Week with the release of a new report ‘Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Impact Report: How big is Australia’s AMR threat?’ Not surprisingly, it’s much higher than what was previously thought: in the thousands rather than hundreds.

WHO has identified antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as one of the top 10 global public health threats. 

It’s a phenomenon where bacteria, parasites, viruses or fungi change to protect themselves from the effects of the antimicrobial medicines that are designed to control and destroy them. This is making infections hard or even impossible to treat. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the threat worse. AMR also makes other medical procedures, including some surgeries, where patients are at higher risk of post operative infection, more risky.

Yet, we don’t know exactly how AMR impacts Australians because of gaps in the data.

MTPConnect, through the Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Network (AAMRNet), and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) combined resources to develop this report that delves deeper into the data to explore the impact of AMR and how many people die from drug-resistant infections in Australia.

The starting point was a widely-cited 2018 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which states that 290 people die each year in Australia due to drug-resistant infection.

AMR deaths are hard to estimate, in part because they can be hidden behind other conditions, such as cancer. The report’s modelling, derived from other published studies, suggests it could be anywhere from 2.4 to 18 times higher than the OECD figure – potentially causing up to 5276 deaths annually.

CSIRO’s Dr Teresa Wozniak, a co-author of the report, said the report reveals how seriously underestimated the real mortality figure could be.

“We know that current methods to accurately estimate AMR related deaths are inadequate. We need more rigorous approaches to better understand deaths in Australia due to resistant infections,” said Dr Wozniak.

AAMRNet Co-Chair Andrew Bowskill explained that the network had commissioned the analysis with CSIRO to understand the true impact of antimicrobial resistant infections in Australia and start to take the threat seriously.

“To respond to the global threat of AMR in the most efficient and effective ways, it’s crucial to have accurate and timely estimates of its impact. This report makes recommendations as to how data is collected and connected in Australia. Collating and linking pathology data with demographic and health information, for example, will support monitoring and assessment of the patient’s journey through the healthcare system as well as enable outcomes and impact to be tracked.

“World Antimicrobial Awareness Week provides a great opportunity to highlight just how difficult a challenge AMR is to manage,” he said.

This year, the theme of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November 2022) is ‘Preventing Antimcirobial Awareness Together’ calling on all sectors to encourage the prudent use of antimicrobials and to strengthen preventive measures addressing AMR, working together collaboratively through a One Health approach.

Read the report now!

The Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Network (AAMRNet), is a multi-stakeholder expert group formed to address the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on human health. Established in 2020 and operated by MTPConnect, the Industry Growth Centre for the Medical Technology, Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical sector, AAMRNet is also supported by Pfizer ANZ, CSIRO, MSD Australia, GSK Australia, Botanix Pharmaceuticals, Recce Pharmaceuticals, Medicines Australia, SpeeDx, Tenmile, Biointelect, Monash Centre to Impact AMR and Bugworks Australia.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia’s national science agency.