Australian and German researchers collaborate to explore antimicrobial resistance

Torrens University and Bielefeld University researchers

Germs like bacteria and viruses are increasingly resistant to the medicines used to kill them and treat infections, including antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance, (AMR), also known as the ‘silent pandemic’, is one of the biggest contemporary threats to human and animal health, food security and sustainable development globally.

An international collaboration of researchers from Torrens University Australia and Bielefeld University in Germany aims to investigate whether equity and gender is being considered in efforts to tackle AMR in Germany and Australia.

Associate Professor Clare Littleton, Acting Deputy Centre Director of the Centre for Healthy Sustainable Development at Torrens University Australia, is being hosted at Bielefeld University from March to May 2023.

Associate Professor Littleton conducts research in the area of Public Health with a specific focus on children, the social and political determinants of health, health equity, education, and public policy. Her research focuses on addressing complex policy issues through cross-disciplinary research, specifically public health and political science.

International Antimicrobial resistance research (AMR) collaboration

During her stay at Bielefeld University, Associate Professor Littleton is working closely with research associate Victoria Saint and Professor Dr. med. Kayvan Bozorgmehr of the Department of Population Medicine and Health Services Research in the School of Public Health in Bielefeld, on a range of research, teaching and other strategic initiatives.

The cross-country study includes a comparison of policies and stakeholder perceptions, providing real-world insight into the AMR policy environment and the perspectives of policymakers and other key actors on formulating equity-oriented AMR policy in the future.

Associate Professor Littleton and Victoria Saint are presenting the preliminary findings from the study at the 17th World Congress on Public Health in Rome on 2-6 May 2023. Held every two to three years, the World Congress is a key international forum about public health issues at national and global levels, with more than 3000 delegates expected to attend.

“Our study is important because we are looking at antimicrobial resistance from a social rather than ‘bugs and drugs’ perspective,” said Associate Professor Littleton. “We want to know how the German and Australian governments are addressing AMR, taking into consideration how population groups in vulnerable situations may be more or differently impacted.

“Women and children, migrants and refugees, or those in precarious work environments may face specific risks and challenges. Therefore, government strategies need to also address social factors such as socio-economic status, gender, and access to healthcare, which are known to reduce health inequities and save lives,” said Associate Professor Littleton.

Strengthening cross-country cross-institutional partnerships

This is Associate Professor Littleton’s second visit to Bielefeld University, with support from the International Guest Lectureship program and co-funding from the Department of Population Medicine and Health Services Research, School of Public Health. Victoria Saint was also hosted by Torrens University Australia from August to September last year.

The collaboration between the two research teams has been ongoing since 2019 and was formalised in August 2022, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bielefeld University and Torrens University Australia.

The partnership aligns with the internationalisation strategies of both Torrens University Australia and Bielefeld University’s School of Public Health. The formalisation of this partnership will facilitate further collaboration, including through research, teaching, and exchange of staff and students in virtual and in-person formats, among other activities.

“International collaboration is extremely important to Torrens University Australia’s research strategy as it ensures that our researchers are operating at an international standard; the research and knowledge contribution is universal and it widens the sphere of impact and influence in academia and community,” said Professor Kerry London, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Torrens University Australia.

“The aim of our cooperation is to strengthen international partnerships and collaborations across disciplines and countries to address relevant challenges for global public health and health systems. A central focus of our future work is understanding how different social, economic and environmental crises intersect and how health policies, systems and societies can manage related uncertainties,” said Professor Bozorgmehr.

“Our partnerships also encourage rigour and debate in the development and cross-fertilisation of new ideas,” said Professor London. “The Bielefeld University partnership is significant to our future direction, and we are very pleased with the work Clare is leading.”

Find out more about Centre for Healthy Sustainable Development (CHSD)
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