MCM Blog

Tackling the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance

By Dr Felicia Pradera and Ms Madeleine Walters

Whether Australia is adequately prepared for a future pandemic should be a key issue on our national agenda. Over the past few years, antimicrobial resistance has become an area of growing concern for our health security. According to the OECD, Australia is particularly vulnerable as our antibiotic usage is significantly higher than the organisation’s average.

The OECD has estimated that nearly 10% of infections in Australia are antimicrobial resistant and that an average of 290 people die each year due to multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. It forecasts that this number is likely to grow significantly in coming years.

This year’s report on antimicrobial use and resistance in Australia highlighted that several of the country’s most concerning drug-resistant bacteria could also be threats to the military.

DMTC’s work addresses the nexus between biological warfare agents and those of public health concern as often they are the same pathogen. Collaborations between government agencies, research institutions and the private sector are the most effective and timely way to address such concerns.

The MCM program enables this kind of collaboration to facilitate and accelerate R&D for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics that will benefit both the Australian Defence Force and the broader Australian community. The program also facilitates collaboration with a range of international bodies to share the burden of developing products to counter potential threats.

DMTC believes that Australia needs a highly advanced MCM development capability to deal with a more serious infectious disease or an international health disaster, like an outbreak of Ebola. If an international pandemic were to occur, Australia’s borders would likely be shut down, leaving us reliant on the national stockpile, which may or may not contain the correct medical countermeasure. If we did not have the correct product in the stockpile, urgent action would be required to deliver bespoke, in-country MCM solutions.

DMTC has six MCM projects running, two of which are specifically targeted at combating antimicrobial resistance in Q fever and the bacterium behind a disease called melioidosis.

One of the projects underway is being led by the University of Western Australia. The project investigates novel antivirulence compounds in treating multiple biological warfare pathogens, in particular those which cause Q fever and melioidosis. The team has made significant progress and has refined potential targets for inhibition of pathogen growth. Next, the team will move to start preclinical trials.

DMTC is also involved in a project to develop a next-generation Q fever vaccine. If these two projects are successful, they will be groundbreaking in the development of Australia’s MCM capability and capacity, and will further reduce our reliance on international supplies of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

DMTC is confident that, with the right management, collaboration and investment, Australia has the novel ability, industry and infrastructure to deliver a strong MCM product development system. Such a system would provide significant opportunities for jobs, skills and manufacturing growth in this new area of the health economy.

Most importantly, it would support a sovereign industry that could protect and even save Australian lives against chemical, biological or radiological threats—whether natural or manmade—and help to counter the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

This article first appeared in The Strategist publication on 19 July 2019. You can access the article in full at:


Posted by Emily Kibble on October 31st, 2019 Tagged: , , , , , ,