Fighting superbugs smartly – Researcher recognised for her work in stopping sepsis.

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                              13 September 2019

Fighting superbugs smartly – Researcher recognised for her work in stopping sepsis

A doctor behind a program saving lives and cutting hospital stays across Victoria has been recognised by Australia’s peak research body for her work driving international leadership in antimicrobial stewardship.

Smarter use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines – drawing upon data showing when and how they are being prescribed – has been a key focus of Professor Karin Thursky’s career, with tangible benefits to patients shown in a major study released this week.

The study has shown the effectiveness of Better Care Victoria’s ‘Think Sepsis. Act Fast’ program, which was led by Professor Thursky, demonstrating it saved 52 lives and avoided 96 ICU admissions while in use at 11 Victorian health services over four months. Today is World Sepsis Day, bringing awareness to this critical health issue.

Professor Thursky, who is director of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship at the Doherty Institute, has now been selected as a finalist in the Health Services Research category of Research Australia’s Health and Medical Awards for her leadership and work that has led to a significant improvement in healthcare.

‘Think Sepsis. Act Fast’ is a clinical pathway which improves outcomes for patients with suspected sepsis through earlier identification and management. It aims to decrease the rate of inpatient sepsis-related mortality, decrease hospital length of stay for patients with sepsis, and decrease sepsis-related ICU admissions while also targeting clinicians’ use of antibiotic therapy to ensure timely and appropriate use.

The recent collaboration between Victorian health services demonstrated a six-fold return on investment with an $11.7 million saving based on reduced length of stay and reduction in costs.

There was a significant improvement in patient outcomes, with a 50 per cent decrease in mortality and 34 per cent decrease in ICU admissions.

Furthermore, the study showed a 28.8 per cent increase in appropriateness of initial antibiotic therapy, highlighting how Australian health care practitioners still have large gains to make in improving their use of antibiotics.

“We know our national appropriateness rate in hospitals (for antibiotic use) is around 73 per cent,” said Professor Thursky, who acted as clinical lead on the collaboration. “It means 1 in 4 prescriptions is still not appropriate, but we can dive deep into the data to find the areas we need to improve in.

“We’ve become international leaders in hospital stewardship. No one else collects the type of data we’re able to collect.”

Professor Thursky leads the National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (NAPS) which helps healthcare services assess their prescribing practice. Her team also plays a key role in implementing the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, training doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other professionals for better use of antibiotics.

The clinical pathway for ‘Think Sepsis. Act Fast’ was originally developed at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where Professor Thursky leads the implementation stream of the Centre of Research Excellence – National Centre for Infections in Cancer.

Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin said Professor Thursky’s work was making a significant impact nationally and internationally on how healthcare providers prescribe antimicrobials such as antibiotics, leading the fight against resistance.

“Professor Thursky has been a key contributor to the successful Guidance Group, based at Royal Melbourne Hospital, which developed software to actively improve clinical use of restricted antimicrobials,” she said.

“Guidance works to support stewardship programs by requiring the doctors to document why they are using antibiotics or restricted antimicrobials. That data is used on a day to day level by the stewardship teams who can undertake a review, encouraging more appropriate prescribing and better results for patients.”

The Guidance System is now used at 70 hospitals across Australia.

Research Australia’s Health and Medical Research Awards recognise the invaluable contributions made to Australian health and medical research, be it through ground-breaking research and discovery, ongoing advocacy or generous philanthropic donations that make innovation possible. The event is attended by some of the country’s most notable researchers, leaders from the Australian public service, key sector influencers and some of the younger researchers making global breakthroughs.

The winners will be announced at the official Awards ceremony on Thursday 14 November at Metropolis Ballroom in Southbank, Melbourne.

Professor Thursky is available for interviews.

Media contact: Pia Akerman, 0412 346 746



Welcoming a National Preventive Health Strategy

Research Australia welcomes the recent announcement by Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt that he will establish an Australian Preventive Health Strategy.

‘It is widely acknowledged that evidence-based preventive measures are typically the highest return investments that can be made to improve the health of our community. They include measures such as vaccination programs and consumer education and awareness campaigns’ said Research Australia CEO, Nadia Levin.

‘New prevention measures start with research, and research can refine and improve existing prevention measures. Research Australia will be advocating for a central role for research in the new Preventive Health Strategy.’

Research Australia has written to the Minister expressing support for the Strategy and emphasising the need for the health and medical research sector to be represented at the Roundtable being convened to advance development of the Strategy.

Research Australia’s Stronger Together Conference Success

Research Australia’s recently hosted a conference themed, Stronger Together’ which was sponsored by The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.  This event bought together health service organisations, philanthropists, state and federal government representatives, not-for-profits, medical research institutes, universities and other key stakeholders to talk about the power of collaboration in leveraging government funding for health and medical research.

Around 100 guests heard from industry leaders and sector influencers to better understand how working together can increase success in seeking funding.  Research Australia also launched their report on ‘Non-Government funding for Victorian Health and Medical Research sharing the key outcomes to bring to light some of the challenges and opportunities in the sector.  To view the report please click here.

The Hon. Jenny Mikakos, Minster for Health opened the event welcoming attendees and session included a fireside chat with Prof Graeme Samuel AC, a presentation from Harold Mitchel AC and a panel of Research Australia members sharing their learnings from specific collaborations included Prof Doug Hilton AO, WEHI, Prof Kathryn North AC, MCRI, Prof Ricky Johnstone, Peter Mac, Megan Donnell, San Filippo Children’s Foundation.  The audience also had the unique opportunity to work in tailored groups to form real-time collaborations for funding.

Thank you to our sponsor, the Department of Health and Human Services, to all our wonderful speakers, facilitators and panellists and to the attendees for their participation in this event, we are delighted with the outcomes.

Should you wish to find out more please contact Sally Shepherd (02) 9295 8545 or email

Left: Stronger Together Conference Chair, Research Australia Director and Executive Leader Bupa Health Foundation, Associate Professor Annette Schmiede & Right: Frank McGuire MP, Parliamentary Secretary, Victorian Government

Left: Research Australia Chair, Chris Chapman, Middle: The Hon. Jenny Mikakos, Minister for Health, Right: Associate Professor Annette Schmiede

One of the collaborative working groups discussing a funding project over a working lunch.


After years of campaigning by Research Australia, the Australian Labor Party has committed to the full $20 billion capitalisation of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) by 2020-21.

The MRFF is a once-in-a-generation plan to underwrite health and medical research, providing better health outcomes for all Australians; and a safer, better quality and more effective health system.

Research Australia CEO and Managing Director, Nadia Levin, said she was thrilled that the MRFF now has bipartisan support, with the fund to reach the full $20 billion by 2020-21.

 “Let’s be clear – every dollar invested into medical research is a dollar invested into the health of all Australians, and the health of our economy,” Ms Levin said.

 “This funding will make a tangible, measurable difference to the lives of Australians, from treatments for people touched by common killers, through to those with rare diseases.

 “It is incredibly rewarding to see both sides of politics reflecting so closely the commitment we called for in our Pre-Election Statement<> on behalf of the health and medical research community.

 “We would like to express our gratitude to the Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare, Hon Catherine King MP for meeting with us recently in April to discuss the issue.

 “At the end of the day, this funding will allow new medical discoveries and treatments to bring hope to Aussie patients.

 “Research Australia recognises the significant scale of this win, which our membership has been calling for since we convened a Pre-Election summit in 2018.

 “This bipartisan support is an important underwriting of a rapidly evolving area of research and healthcare, and will further strengthen Australia’s expertise and build upon our potential.

 “The beneficiaries of the MRFF are universities, medical research institutes, not-for-profits and commercial medical research, and ultimately the Australian people and the economy.

 “I challenge people to come up with a list more worthy of support.”

 To find out more about Research Australia visit:<>

 For more information please contact: Lauren Devlin 0449 041 214