Churchill Fellowship award winner, Associate Professor Susan Benson, Clinical Academic in The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Medicine, Fremantle, believes greater discussion is needed regarding the over-use of antibiotics in the treatment of illness saying human interaction with micro-organisms is necessary for good health.
Associate Professor Benson, also a clinical microbiologist at Royal Perth Hospital and an infectious diseases physician at Armadale Hospital, will travel to international centres this month to look at alternative approaches that can be used in routine clinical practice to reduce the injudicious use of antibiotics by health professionals.
She was one of 13 Western Australians to be awarded a Churchill Fellowship in July 2014, receiving the Dr Dorothea Sandars Fellowship ‘to investigate innovative methods in medical education, health informatics and microbiology to improve the use of antibiotics and management of infection’.
The Fellowship will allow Associate Professor Benson to travel to the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA in September to investigate strategies to reduce the risks of infection from the misuse of antibiotics.
Associate Professor Benson says that whilst antibiotic resistance is on the increase, patients and doctors need to be more aware of the different options available not only to treat infection but also prevent them in the first instance.
“Medical advances have developed such that we practice highly invasive care. Procedures, devices and drugs breach human defense mechanisms, and increase the risk of serious infection. Our major focus has been on using antibiotics to treat and increasingly believe that by using them we will prevent infection. This is essentially flawed thinking,” Associate Professor Benson said.
“Naively, we believe that antibiotics are our primary tools, and despite evidence to the contrary, we use them more than ever not just to save lives, but ‘just in case’ when there are much more effective and sustainable solutions. We do not appreciate the incredible ingenuity of micro-organisms.”
Upon her return to Australia, Associate Professor Benson plans to develop and promote more effective strategies in Australian medicine to optimise the diagnosis, prevention and management of infections.
“I intend to look into ways that we can optimise the laboratory service to have a more active role in improving the care of patients with infection, and helping doctors decide the best ways to use antibiotics but also appreciate the role of non-antibiotic measures to treat and prevent infection,” Associate Professor Benson said.
“The use of antibiotics is not just about the care of an individual but also the impact on the wider population of both human beings and micro-organisms.
“With Notre Dame’s strong foundations in public health and ethics, we hope to coordinate teaching in this area with the goal of ensuring that all graduates have the knowledge and skills to understand the vital relationship between human beings and micro-organisms in disease and health.”
The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which was established after the death of Sir Winston Churchill, has now funded more than 3900 fellowships for Australians to undertake national and international research for the betterment of the Australian community.
(Source: The University of Notre Dame – Australia)