HARC Scholar Sets Sights On Improving Response To Superbugs

5 June 2017

Healthcare Associated Infections project officer Amy Bisson is set to investigate ways to co-ordinate planned responses to multi-drug resistant organisms for NSW patients after being named a 2017 HARC Scholar by the Sax Institute.

HARC (Hospital Alliance for Research Collaboration) is a collaboration between the Sax Institute and the CEC, the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI), the Cancer Institute NSW and the Bureau of Health Information (BHI). It aims to build the NSW health system's capacity to close evidence-practice gaps by fostering the use of research evidence in policies and programs and this year scholars all had a focus on reducing unwanted clinical variation.

Amy has an interest in the emerging threat posed by prominent super-bug carbapenemase-producing Enterobaceriaceae (CPE) which is posing huge challenges internationally.

Having previously worked as a nurse, Ms Bisson said she was well aware of the frontline impact of the spread of multi-drug resistant bacteria. While Australia had not seen the same numbers of CPE infections as some other countries, it was recognised as a public health priority, with the first Australian hospital outbreak documented in 2012 and cases rising since.

"It is the last line of antibiotic treatment after other options have failed, and that is why it is so critical," she said. "Infections are often in very sick patients, and the mortality rate is very high. In the 2012 Australian outbreak our mortality rate was 40 per cent which while very high compares favourably with international areas where rates are closer to 50 or 60 per cent."

Ms Bisson will use the scholarship to travel to Melbourne, Switzerland and the UK to study strategies that are proven to bring about change in practice improvements, communication, education and quality improvement.

She said she hoped the information she gathered would help inform the CEC's development of guidelines, outbreak plans and tools to reduce unwarranted clinical variation and patient harm when responding to multi-drug resistant organisms such as CPE.

"Ultimately, we're looking to bring quality procedures to NSW hospitals so they have co-ordinated approaches based on the best international evidence when responding to any future superbug outbreaks," Ms Bisson said.