Antibiotic Allergy Research

Antibiotic Allergy Research

A world-first research project funded by Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation as a result of generous donations from donors is currently investigating how accurately WA children are being labelled as allergic to antibiotics.

The $1.27m grant over three years is funding the Penicillin – “Yes Please!” or “No thank you!” project at Perth Children’s Hospital, which aims to prevent medical complications in children as a result of them being inappropriately categorised as allergic to antibiotics.

It is estimated that around 90-95 percent of children who have been labelled as allergic to antibiotics do not in fact have a true allergy which can have major repercussions for them, including poorer clinical outcomes, increased antibiotic resistance, prolonged hospital stays and increased re-admission rates. This is something that the Lester family from Perth knows all about. Mum, Natasha, explains that because her three children developed a mild rash as infants whilst on antibiotics, they were labelled as allergic to them.

“We were told that each child was supposedly allergic to a different antibiotic, but no formal testing was ever carried out,” she explains.

This is something that Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg, Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair of Paediatric Anaesthesia, is all too familiar with. “Currently one in six children who undergo operations at the hospital, in addition to around seven percent of PCH inpatients, have been labelled as allergic to antibiotics without undergoing any formal allergy testing,” explains Prof. Britta.

The issue is that most of these children have never received formal allergy testing in order to verify or dismiss their true status, so we don’t know if they actually have an allergy to antibiotics or not. We’re absolutely thrilled to have been granted over $1 million in funding from Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation to research this important medical issue further”.

Professor Mikaela Lucas, Project Lead and UWA Associate and Clinical Immunologist from PCH explains that the incorrect labelling of children as having antibiotic resistance is probably one of the biggest ignored problems in our healthcare system, and an issue that is becoming a big problem worldwide.

“Using other antibiotics which are really reserved for complex bacteria is giving rise to superbugs,” she says. It’s very much the opposite of the iceberg effects, where the number of children with true allergies is very small, but those with self-reported allergies is very large. That’s why we really need to view this problem on a global level. The good news is that de-labelling will significantly increase the number of children who can receive the appropriate antibiotics as part of their treatment plan.”

By the conclusion of the project, which is expected to take 24 months, the project team plan to devise a model of care that allows for de-labelling to be rolled out through GP clinics.

Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Carrick Robinson, said the research project was the first of its kind, and would be incredibly important not just to WA kids, but ultimately children around the world.

“Our donors should be very proud that their generosity has enabled the Foundation to fund this world-first research which will establish an efficient system to verify or dismiss assumed antibiotic allergy labels and provide sustainable, evidence-based approaches both for our own community in WA, and others around the world.

“This project has the potential to decrease costs across the health system and ultimately greatly improve the care health professionals can give to sick children at PCH, which is what the team here at the Foundation is focused on supporting.”

PCH staff are currently referring children with the greatest need to the Penicillin – “Yes Please!” or “No thank you!” project team for allergy testing. It is not currently possible for families to self-refer to this research trial.

You can read more about our Antibiotic Allergy Research here.

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