Previous publications have stated that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer (1). It is a grim prediction often talked about in medical circles and confirmed in a United Kingdom Government funded review of antimicrobial resistance.

Helping prevent this potential scenario is Professor Jeffrey Lipman AM, RBWH Ambassador for Research and Consultant Intensive Care Services.

“The bacteria always seem one step ahead of us. But all that has changed. Indeed, it had to change. If we continued to do what we did before, then bacteria most certainly would have become resistant,” said Professor Lipman.

Professor Lipman is one of the world’s leading experts in antibiotic dosing in acute situations. His work has changed the way antibiotics are used in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) worldwide.

“We have shown over the last 20 years that we have been dosing incorrectly in adults in ICUs,” he said. Professor Lipman’s work is not restricted to Intensive Care. His work has paved the way for individualised antibiotic dosing across almost all wards of the RBWH, including paediatrics.

“We believe that paediatric dosing is rudimentary at this stage, but we are going to change all that very soon.”

Professor Lipman’s latest research, micro sampling, gives doctors the ability to measure antibiotic levels from a finger prick of blood. This means a patient is not required to provide a traditional blood sample.

“When we worked out the correct antibiotic dosing in adults, it required us to take a lot of blood samples: up to 10 samples of 5 millilitres over 6 hours. You can’t do that in babies because there’s just not enough blood to take. That’s all the blood they have,” Professor Lipman said.

Microsampling will enable doctors to dose far more accurately.

Perfecting antibiotic dosing will not only mean better patient outcomes in the short term, but also in the long term. Professor Lipman’s discoveries will prevent antibiotic resistance in newborns, setting them up well for life. Studies on microsampling are currently underway and should be completed within a year or two.

This year, Professor Lipman was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to healthcare. His work on microsampling was also awarded the Discovery and Innovation Research Award at the 2019 Herston State of the Art Healthcare Symposium.