The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital

Professor Karin Thursky

Professor Karin Thursky

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Director National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) | Director Guidance Group
Antimicrobial Resistance
Global Health, Public Health, Clinical and health systems research
The University of Melbourne, Department of Infectious Diseases, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Guidance Group (RMH), National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS)
Lab Group(s):
Guidance Group, National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship

Professor Karin Thursky MBBS BSc MD FRACP FAHMS FAIDH  is an infectious disease physician and clinical researcher with a wealth of experience in advancing antimicrobial stewardship programs. Currently, she leads the Guidance Group at Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), serves as the Director for the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) and Associate Director of Health Services Research and Implementation Sciences at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, is a Principal Fellow in two Departments: Medicine and Oncology at the University of Melbourne. She has more than 20 years of experience in designing and implementing programs to improve the quality and safety of healthcare including information technology solutions used globally. 

  • Key Achievements
    • Professor Thursky is a renowned leader in AMS, and especially in the field of digital health. She has directly influenced the implementation of the National AMR Strategy. NCAS has influenced national policies and clinical practice and was the first 'One Health' research program examining antimicrobial use across animal and human health.  She has facilitated ongoing collaboration between universities, hospitals, and state and national governmental agencies to drive the AMS agenda. Her team have established the National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey platform, and she is the founder of the Guidance AMS decision support software implemented in multiple hospital nationwide. Her health services research in cancer as well as sepsis has led to new models of care that are being scaled nationally in both adults and paediatrics.  

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    • National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey

      The National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (NAPS) is a standardised auditing tool that is designed to assist healthcare facilities to assess the quantity and quality of local antimicrobial prescribing. The development and implementation of the NAPS has been undertaken through an ongoing collaborative partnership between the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care since 2013. The NAPS was developed and is administered by the Guidance Group at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and is a program partner in the Antimicrobial Usage and Resistance in Australia (AURA) Surveillance System. The Hospital NAPS is the flagship survey and commenced in 2011. Since then, the NAPS program has grown and diversified to provide a suite of auditing tools that support the antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) workforce and meet the geographical challenges of Australian hospitals. There are several modules available: Hospital NAPS, Surgical NAPS, Hospital-in-the-Home NAPS and the Quality Improvement NAPS, which have been developed for hospitals; and the Aged Care NAPS (in partnership with the VICNISS Coordinating Centre at the Royal Melbourne Hospital), which has been developed for residential aged care facilities. A General Practice NAPS is being piloted, and a Veterinary NAPS is in development. The NAPS has become an important tool for the implementation of the objectives of Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, and for supporting the appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobials. 

    • Tertiary

      Surgical antibiotic prophylaxis was identified as the most common reason for antibiotics to be prescribed in tertiary hospitals in Australia in the NAPS performed in November 2013, and in subsequent iterations of the survey. The administration of surgical antibiotic prophylaxis is an important strategy for the prevention of surgical site infections. However, in the 2013 NAPS survey, ~50% of surgical antibiotic prophylaxis use was inappropriate, particularly because of prolonged duration or inappropriate agent selection. The Surgical NAPS program provides a more granular assessment of the appropriateness of antimicrobial prophylaxis prescribing in the surgical setting. A project within this stream focuses on surgical antimicrobial prophylaxis prescribing, using a mixed-methods approach to conceptualise factors contributing to inappropriate surgical antimicrobial prophylaxis prescribing rates. It is anticipated that by gaining further insight as to why surgical antimicrobial prophylaxis is inappropriately prescribed, more specific antimicrobial stewardship measures can be developed and implemented to improve this. Another project within this stream examines antifungal use and antifungal stewardship in tertiary hospitals, with a focus on the liver transplant setting.

    • General practice

      Antibiotics are among the most common medications prescribed in general practice, but there is very little information available regarding the indications for use and the appropriateness of the antibiotic prescriptions. Additionally, very little is known about how GPs learn about antibiotics, and the perceptions and attitudes that shape their prescribing behaviour. This project focuses on antimicrobial stewardship in general practice. The aims of this project are to: analyse current antibiotic prescribing by GPs; review international general practice antimicrobial stewardship frameworks; consider the views of stakeholders regarding the barriers and enablers to AMS in general practice and their potential contribution to such a framework. To gain an insight into the patterns of antibiotic use and adherence to guidelines in general practice, this project will utilise the MAGNET research platform to analyse clinical data that has been extracted from the clinical records of patients attending general practices in the inner eastern region of Melbourne.  The researchers will also conduct qualitative interviews with GPs to understand their workflows and the barriers and enablers to evidence-based prescribing of antibiotics. The findings from both the quantitative and qualitative studies will be used to inform the development of novel interventions that can guide GPs' decision-making around antibiotic prescribing and address the education needs of GPs to support their decision-making. NCAS is implementing a pilot GP NAPS survey to assess prescribing practices in this setting.

    • Aged care

      Research suggests that residential aged care facilities may be acting as a ‘reservoir and gateway’ for multi-drug resistant organism transmission (into hospitals and other parts of the general community). Thus, there is an urgent need to optimise the use of antimicrobials in this setting, given that inappropriate use of antimicrobials increases selection pressure for multi-drug-resistant organisms. This stream is geared towards optimising antimicrobial use in the residential aged care facilities setting, with a focus on implementing the Aged Care NAPS, a survey of antimicrobial use and infections in aged care homes and facilities in Australia. Research undertaken within this stream investigates the best ways of measuring antibiotic consumption in aged care facilities; interventions to improve antimicrobial prescribing in aged care facilities; and outcomes associated with these interventions. Researchers aim to improve the care of older people with respiratory tract infections in Australian residential aged care facilities with antimicrobial stewardship, and investigate the roles of nurses, and residents and their families in determining antibiotic use at the end of life.

    • Regional and remote care

      Australia is a country in which a significant proportion of the community live in rural and regional centres. Often dedicated experts are not available locally to guide antimicrobial stewardship programs in those settings. Attention is needed to establish sustainable models of care for antimicrobial stewardship in rural Australian hospitals. This group will examine available data to interrogate the quality of prescribing in rural-vs-urban hospital settings. Qualitative research will be conducted to examine models of care by interviewing key informants from sites where innovative models have been established. The aim is to describe a comprehensive model for antimicrobial stewardship in rural hospitals. The impact of the program will be evaluated using mixed methods along the following parameters: uptake/utilisation, staff acceptance, and changes in drug consumption patterns and appropriateness of antibiotic prescriptions. It is likely that this work will also inform strategies to build capacity in antimicrobial stewardship amongst local staff in rural hospitals. Training for auditing and feedback, and provision of resources as part of a package of interventions will also be a focus.

    • Veterinary medicine – companion animals

      While there is greater microbiological monitoring of infectious disease in companion animals as compared to farm animals, and data available within veterinary diagnostic laboratories on resistance patterns in a number of important indicator species, including Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus pseud-intermedius and Escherichia coli, there is limited data available about usage patterns or the rationales behind antimicrobial usage. Through our research, we have been identifying factors driving antimicrobial prescribing in companion animal and equine practices, and have identified and designed strategies for future interventions, including improved prescribing guidelines and suitable mechanisms to ensure appropriate use; educational programs through continuing education courses; and, potentially, the incorporation of responsible prescribing into veterinary hospital accreditation programs.

    • Veterinary medicine – livestock

      In Australia, livestock production systems differ markedly from intensive livestock practices internationally. Usage in animal production is generally restricted to specific registered classes of antimicrobials and administration is generally for restricted periods of time in relatively isolated populations of animals. In contrast, antimicrobial usage in companion animals (dogs, cats and horses) is across a wider range of classes, within less isolated populations and in animals in near constant contact with humans. The aim of our studies has been to gain a clear understanding of the volumes of antimicrobials administered to different food animals, the specific antimicrobials used in typical herds and flocks, and the distribution of this usage over the lifetime of these animals. The indications that serve as signals to prescribers have been explored to identify those that are justifiable and those that are questionable, as well as to identify health problems that might be the focus of alternative solutions. In addition, the rationales for specific choices of drugs have been assessed and analysed in relation to the evidence available to support this use. This has assisted in identifying gaps in evidence for different prescribing patterns that can be addressed to guide improved behaviour.

    Research Groups
    • Guidance Group

      The Royal Melbourne Hospital Guidance Group consists of a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, epidemiologists, software developers, data architects and UX/UI designers who are continuously striving to develop, maintain and enhance innovative tools to support antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives. The Guidance Group is a key partner of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) and collaborator with the University of Melbourne Centre for Digital Health Transformation.

      Guidance® AMS Program is a web-based antimicrobial decision support program that was first established in 2005 and re-built in 2022 with enhanced features specifically tailored to better meet the needs of clinicians. By providing evidence-based guidelines, decision support, and appropriate assessments, Guidance AMS offers a comprehensive approach to promoting the appropriate and effective usage of antimicrobials within the healthcare ecosystem.

      The National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey (NAPS) serves as a standardised auditing tool that is designed to assist healthcare institution in assessing the quantity and quality of local antimicrobial prescribing. Since it’s establishment in 2013, the development and implementation of NAPS has been undertaken through an ongoing collaborative partnership between NCAS, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) and Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (DHAC). NAPS is coordinated by NCAS and administered by the Guidance Group and is a program partner in the Antimicrobial Usage and Resistance in Australia (AURA) surveillance system. The spectrum of audits offered currently includes hospital, surgical, antifungal, quality improvement and aged care. Successful pilot runs have been accomplished on a global scale, notably in countries including Bhutan, Canada, and New Zealand.

      Lab Team

    • National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship

      The National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) is a health services research program that aims to improve the use of antimicrobials across animal and human health, to influence national policy, and to generate a research workforce across nurses, pharmacists, doctors and veterinarians. NCAS aims to lead and facilitate the embedding of antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) within clinical practice across diverse healthcare settings and among different practitioner groups in Australia. Its research and surveillance programs aim to improve antimicrobial prescribing by understanding prescribing behaviours through qualitative and quantitative methods, monitoring current prescribing patterns across healthcare settings, identifying targets for quality improvement, and developing interventions, new policies and practices.

      Lab Team

      National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship

      • Director National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) | Director Guidance Group
      • Deputy Director of NCAS; Director of the Guidance Group; Infectious Diseases Physician
      • Dr Rodney James
      • Senior Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist and Project Officer
      • Dr Noleen Bennett
      • Robyn Ingram
      • Head of the Infection Prevention and Surveillance Service (Royal Melbourne Hospital)
      • Professor Glenn Browning
      • Professor Mike Richards
      • Guidance IT Manager
      • Associate Professor Rhonda Stuart
      • Dr David Kong
      • Professor Danielle Mazza
      • Dr Trish Peel
      • Dr N.Deborah Friedman
      • Dr Helen Billman-Jacobe
      • Infectious Diseases and General Physician (Royal Melbourne Hospital)
      • Operations Director (VICNISS)
      • Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician
      • Evette Buono
      • Professor Frank Dunshea
      • Courtney Ierano
      • Jaclyn Bishop
      • Karen Urbancic
      • Lesley Hawes
      • Leslie Dowson
      • Dr Laura Hardefeldt
        Post-Doctorate Fellow | Department of Veterinary Biosciences
      • Dr Helen Crabb
      • Dr Kirsten Bailey
        Research Fellow in Antimicrobial Stewardship | Melbourne Veterinary School
      • Dr Arjun Rajkhowa
      • Dr Anna Sri
        PhD Candidate | Melbourne Veterinary School
      • Dr Amy Hii
        PhD Candidate | Department of Veterinary Biosciences
      • Dr Ri Scarborough
        PhD Candidate | Melbourne Veterinary School

Full University of Melbourne profile