Antibiotic researcher wins Bupa Emerging Health Researcher Award

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Dr Amanda McCullough, Bond University Research Fellow, is the recipient of the Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award for 2017.

The $25,000 prize will go towards supporting the further development of Dr McCullough’s research career. Dr McCullough's research is focused on combating the rise of antimicrobial resistance by reducing the prescribing of antibiotics by general practitioners.

“Dr McCullough’s contribution in this area of research could be far reaching, and help us address a global health challenge. Ultimately, finding strategies to overcome antibiotic resistance can save lives – in Australia and around the world,” said Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation executive leader.

“By 2050, around 10 million people each year could be dying because of antibiotic resistance,” said Dr McCullough.

Australian GPs prescribe nearly six million antibiotics every year. Dr McCullough's research has demonstrated this is four-to-nine times higher than what is recommended by Australian guidelines.

As part of her research, Dr McCullough has been reviewing the evidence on why GPs and the public use antibiotics, and how this might be reduced for common conditions such as coughs, colds, cases of flu and ear infections. She is also involving a psychologist in her work.

“It’s different to what’s often done in these things. So, I guess that is where my work is quite different in that I’ve set the benchmark, and now I’m trying to close the gap.”

Dr Chris Del Mar, professor of public health at Bond University, nominated Dr McCullough for the award.

Professor Del Mar said the importance of Dr McCullough’s research lies in the seriousness and potential harm of antimicrobial resistance.

“If we can’t be sure that antibiotic cover is effective then all of our lifesaving treatments- hip replacements, chemotherapy for cancer, stents in the heart - will be too dangerous to do. Medicine will be retreating back to the 1930s,” said Professor Del Mar.

“To my mind, there is actually no point of doing research if you can’t get it into practice so that it improves health. So, that’s really my driving force, I guess,” added Dr McCullough.

Five other health researchers were also acknowledged as finalists with each awarded $5,000 to continue their research.

The researchers are Dr Bridianne O’Dea of the Black Dog Institute, Dr Emma Beckett of The University of Newcastle, Dr Jaquelyne Hughes from Menzies School of Health Research and Royal Darwin Hospital, Dr Rae-Anne Hardie of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University, and Dr Thushara Perera from the Bionics Institute.