Menzies infectious diseases specialist, Dr Josh Davis was recently awarded a competitive project grant as part of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) yearly multi-million dollar funding round.

Josh shares his thoughts on his new funding.

What is the title of your project?

CAMERA – Combination Antibiotic treatment for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection – a Randomised Controlled Trial

What major health issue does your research hope to address and how?

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA, or “golden Staph”) is a common cause of severe infections, but it is difficult to treat because it is resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

It is the most common antibiotic resistant human pathogen, with an estimated 2800 cases of blood stream infection and 850 deaths annually in Australia. The chance of dying from MRSA blood stream infection is about 30 per cent, which is higher than the more common antibiotic sensitive strain of Staph aureus. This is because the antibiotics that are available to treat MRSA don’t work very well.

What is the most exciting aspect of your funding win?

This funding will enable me and colleagues from Menzies to lead a large team of researchers from across Australia and Singapore to address this important research question. It will also further develop my expertise and that of Menzies in conducting large multicentre trials.

What are the proposed details of your research methodology (sample numbers, sites etc)?

We plan to enrol 440 adults from 17 hospitals around Australia and three in Singapore in a clinical trial. Following written informed consent, patients with MRSA blood stream infection will be randomly allocated to either receive standard antibiotic treatment (vancomycin), or standard treatment combined with flucloxacillin – a cheap, safe and widely available antibiotic from the penicillin family. Flucloxacillin alone doesn’t work against MRSA, but when combined with vancomycin it kills the bacteria more efficiently (in laboratory experiments). We now plan to test this idea in people.

What are the broader health implications of your grant?

Ours will be the first randomised controlled trial to address this important question, and hence the result (whether it be positive or negative) will influence practice not just in Australia, but around the world. We have designed the trial with generalisability in mind; the results will apply not only to average Australian patients but also to patients on haemodialysis (in whom S. aureus infections are an important problem, but are often excluded from such trials), patients in the USA and Europe, and patients in poorer countries, who would be able to afford vancomycin plus flucloxacillin

What are the timeframes for your project and any other major milestone dates?

We plan to start recruitment in mid-2015, and anticipate it will take four years to complete enrolment. We expect our final results will be available in 2019.