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Australia leads the charge on antimicrobial resistance with national AMR Awareness Mission

13 Apr 2023

The AMR Australia Mission 2023 has wrapped up - what can we take away?

Perth based biotech company, Lixa, is on a mission to spread awareness of the growing threat of antibiotic resistance – and doing it differently than you might expect. Last month the company wrapped up its nationwide awareness tour, having run events in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. But rather than setting up in university lecture halls or exhibition centres – tour events took place in luxury, inner city cinemas where a mix of general public and expert audiences together watched the Australian premiere of the deeply moving documentary "Salt in My Soul". The film follows the story of a real patient who passed away from a resistant infection. The screening was followed by open and honest interactive discussions between the audience, the patient’s parents and superbug experts, leading to a refreshing mix of passion, frustration, camaraderie and dedication to solving antimicrobial resistance (or AMR). 

“Scientific conferences are great to discuss the details of highly specialised expertise”, says Lixa CEO, Dr Maud Eijkenboom, “but these discussions stay within a bubble. Our aim with the AMR Australia Mission was to bring experts out of this bubble while empowering non-scientific audiences to understand what AMR is, why it is an urgent threat to themselves and the world, and that everyone can take action.”

“Salt in My Soul” follows Mallory Smith, a young woman with cystic fibrosis who had a lung transplant that should have saved her life. Sadly, Mallory would eventually lose her life to a drug-resistant infection. Mallory’s story is extraordinary, because she has recorded her journey from a young age, knowing that one day this disease would kill her. The audience watches her life as a cheeky 3 year old, a young child playing in the surf, a teenager and an aspiring young adult at university. Since Mallory’s passing, her mother, Diane Shader Smith, has pivoted her career as a writer and fundraiser to travelling around the world, including to the White House, sharing Mallory’s story to raise awareness for AMR. Diane and Mallory’s father, Mark, flew to Australia in early March to join Lixa’s Mission and speak to audiences about their experiences, advocacy journey and the power of the patient voice.

Diane Shader Smith opens the Sydney event.

“People connect much more strongly to a cause when there is a human face associated with it and up until this point, AMR hasn’t really had that”, says Shader Smith. “Think of what Angelina Jolie did for the breast cancer BRCA gene or Michael J Fox with Parkinson’s. AMR needs to be as recognisable as cancer, but the public doesn’t know about it. They don’t know that the UTI, ear infections, lung infections, diabetic foot ulcers that don’t heal are all examples of AMR. Mallory may not be a celebrity but when we share her story through the film, people walk in her shoes and experience the true impact.”

Diane and Mark were also joined on the tour by Richard Alm, Chief Scientist of CARB-X - a US-based organisation that is one of the largest funders for AMR innovation globally. Dr Alm brought perspective to the statistics behind this silent pandemic, saying:

“Deaths associated with AMR in 2019 are the equivalent of a jumbo 747 crashing every 39 minutes for 1 year. Let that sink in. No government would tolerate even 2 planes going down in 1 day. By 2050, this will be a lot worse if we do not find solutions.”

So what can the average person do about AMR, you might ask? Below we have distilled the top recommendations from the AMR Australia Mission 2023 experts:

"When your GP says you or your child have a viral infection, and that prescribing an antibiotic is not necessary, understand why and don't pressure them for the prescription. Antibiotics do not work on viruses and using them when they aren't needed only adds to the development of resistant bacteria."

Dr Morgyn Warner

Infectious diseases physician and clinical microbiologist at SA Pathology.

"The global health crisis many know as AMR has an alphabet soup problem of acronyms: AMR for antimicrobial resistance, AR for antibiotic resistance, MDR for multi-drug resistance, DRI for drug resistant infections, DR for drug resistance and there's also the term, Superbugs. I urge global leaders to agree on a name, so we are using the same language. Cancer is a word that refers to any one of a large number of diseases. You say the word and people get it. That's NOT the case with AMR."

Diane Shader Smith

AMR Advocate and mother of Mallory Smith

"Governments care about what the general public cares about. It's simple. Vote for the politicians that are going to prioritize health care into power in your state, in your country."

Dr Richard Alm

Chief Scientific Officer at CARB-X

"70% of global antibiotics are used in animal husbandry - that means that if you regularly eat meat, you take in more antibiotics on a daily basis and contribute to the cycle of AMR. Take a good look at the food you are eating. Buying antibiotic-free meat creates a demand in the industry for nonantibiotic solutions."

Mark Smith

Father of Mallory Smith

"Don't use detergents with extra antiseptic or antibacterial ingredients to wash your clothes, dishes etc. They aren't necessary on a regular basis - soap will do the job! The more antimicrobials we put out into the world, the more we create resistant bacteria in our environment."

Professor Trevor Lithgow

Director of the Centre to Impact AMR

"Take a look at your investment porfolio and consider investment in the latest AMR solutions and technologies with the potential to break the cycle of AMR. These small, up and coming companies have exceptional growth potential while creating solutions that are desperately needed."

Dr Maud Eijkenboom

CEO of Lixa

"Bigger voices have bigger impact so we are really appreciative of the patients and supporters that band together and create advocacy groups. The CF advocacy groups are usually very vocal and that has been very useful and we can rely on that as clinicians. A lot of other patient groups don't necessarily have that cohesive identity, which is unfortunate. So, it's about advocacy at all levels, from all the way down in your family and community, schools etc., all the way up to governments and authorities, trying to just make voices heard as much as possible."

Dr Ameneh Khatami

Infectious diseases paediatrician and researcher at The Children's Hospital at Westmead

Antimicrobial resistance (also known as antibiotic resistance or AMR) happens when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites no longer respond to the medicine that once treated them. Bacteria are building resistance to existing antibiotics faster than new antibiotics are entering the market and we have already reached a point at which not all bacterial infections are treatable anymore. In 2019, AMR was associated with the death of 4.95 million people every year – a number that threatens to climb as high as 10 million by 2050.

Lixa is developing antibiofilm platform technologies with the potential to solve recurring infections and contaminations for anyone, anything and anywhere. Find out more.

The AMR Awareness Mission 2023 was made possible by Lixa, Bennett, City of Perth, CARB-X, CERI and Wrays and supported by DMTC, Phage Australia, Duxton Hotels and Palace Cinemas.

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