New system spotlights spread of antibiotic resistance

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A new surveillance system set up to provide early warning of the spread of dangerous bacteria has detected more than 1,000 cases across Australia resistant to last-line antibiotics—giving experts much better and more timely information to help combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The first annual report of the National Alert System for Critical Antimicrobial Resistance (CARAlert) reveals 1,064 reports of highly resistant bacteria were lodged in the system from 17 March 2016 to 31 March 2017.

Reports were made by 73 participating laboratories nationwide in the system’s first full year of operation, which found at least one strain of bacteria with a ‘critical antimicrobial resistance’—defined as bacteria that cannot be treated by last-line antibiotics—reported from every state and territory.

The CARAlert system was established by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care in March 2016, with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health. The system represents a significant element of the Commission’s AURA (Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia) Surveillance System. CARAlert collects information about highly resistant bacteria as they are confirmed, allowing trends to be identified and giving states and territories additional information to help containment efforts.

The new report shows that 86 entries were made to CARAlert system each month on average from April 2016 to March 2017. At least 37 per cent of all critical antimicrobial resistances (CARs) were from patients in the community.

The Commission’s senior medical advisor for the AURA project, Professor John Turnidge, said CARAlert was “an extraordinarily valuable extra tool that helps health authorities around Australia pinpoint the emergence of dangerous strains of bacteria with minimal delay.

“This new system provides an important extra line of defence to complement existing information systems on the spread of antimicrobial resistance.”

You can read more about the problem of antimicrobial resistance and the important role dentists have to play in our feature The superbug crisis, which appeared in the May issue of Bite magazine.

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