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Melbourne Antibiotic Allergy Testing Centre Helping Stop Spread of Superbugs

Hundreds of patients who thought they were allergic to penicillin, perhaps from a childhood experience, have been given the all-clear thanks to doctors at Victoria’s first antibiotic allergy testing centre.

Since the clinic opened two years ago, 83 per cent of the centre’s patients have been able to take the “antibiotic allergy” label off their medical records, allowing them to take penicillin instead of more complex, less effective antibiotics that lead to the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Clinic director and infectious diseases physician Dr Jason Trubiano said the allergy tests had had a “profound effect” on those patients.

“The aim of this is to reduce [the use of] those bad antibiotics to prevent antibiotic-resistant superbugs,” he said.

“A lot of our allergic patients were forced onto those broad antibiotics because they thought they couldn’t have the simpler, better ones … so by letting patients use simple penicillins again, we hope to prevent superbug generation in these patients.”

The clinic is based at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital in collaboration with Victoria’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and is the second of its type in Australia.

So far, it has tested almost 400 patients and 50 per cent of them are “complex patients” with a lowered immune system, due to either cancer or organ transplants.

To receive the all-clear, they first undergo an extensive skin-prick test using a few drops of the antibiotic, then a small amount of the drug under the skin.

If there is no reaction they are given an antibiotic tablet under careful monitoring.

“We really want to target those patients who need antibiotics frequently as they’ll be the ones who benefit the most,” Dr Trubiano said.

“I’m surprised just how relieved patients are to be able to remove that penicillin allergy from their chart and take whatever antibiotic their doctor wants to give them without restriction … hopefully they’ll get better sooner.”

Dr Trubiano said the clinic was also developing a simpler blood test that could be used in conjunction with skin tests for more severe allergies, and the early results were “very promising”.

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