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The Infections and Acute Care Group and the Primary Care Clinical Trials unit – both led by Professor Chris Butler – had a momentous evening on Tuesday May 2, as they swept the Antibiotic Guardian Awards, receiving accolades for revolutionary research and science communications. The teams won in the categories of Research and COVID-19 learning and also got Highly Commended for Research.

Portraits of the winners, Prof Chris Butler, Associate Prof Sarah Tonkin-Crine, Dr Oliver Van Hecke and Dr Marta Wanat

The seventh Antibiotic Guardian Shared Learning Awards championed organisations and individuals who have demonstrated achievements in tackling antimicrobial resistance at a local, regional or national level.

The PRINCIPLE trial won in the category of ‘COVID-19 Learning’ for a number of groundbreaking antibiotic papers. The PRINCIPLE trial of repurposed medicines for treating COVID-19 in the community generated findings very early on in the pandemic that informed care world-wide.

Antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline were widely used for treating COVID at the time in the NHS and were even included in treatment protocols in many settings, including Brazil and India. PRINCIPLE found that azithromycin and doxycycline did not meaningfully benefit patients in the community at higher risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19.

Unnecessary use of these drugs drives antimicrobial resistance, wastes resources, and puts patients at unnecessary risk of side effects. PRINCIPLE was one of the first and largest trials to rigorously evaluate these drugs in primary care for COVID-19. Findings from the trial supported a Clinical Alert from the Chief Medical Officers to all NHS clinicians that advised against the use of drugs for COVID in the absence of other indications.

Commenting on the award, PRINCIPLE Co-Chief Investigator Professor Christopher Butler said: “Implementation has made a major contribution to antimicrobial stewardship, and we are proud that this Antibiotic Guardian award recognises the reach and impact of these findings from this  innovative trial.”

The project “Managing penicillin allergy in primary care: an important but neglected aspect of antibiotic stewardship”, submitted by Dr Marta Wanat and Dr Sarah Tonkin-Crine, won the annual Antibiotic Guardian Award for Research.

This was an NIHR PGfAR funded joint programme of research on penicillin allergy de-labelling between the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals University Trust.

Sarah Tonkin-Crine and Marta Wanat commented: “We are delighted that our work on understanding how penicillin allergy is currently managed in primary care and how delabelling can be used to benefit patients has been recognised by the panel and won the award. Our qualitative work was crucial to identify key barriers to penicillin allergy management and allowed us to capture patient and clinician views which are critical for improved clinical practice. The project benefitted from bringing together a multidisciplinary team of researchers and clinicians to ensure successful delivery.”

Finally, the SPCR-funded project "Infographics about antibiotics: making facts accessible" was highly commended annual Antibiotic Guardian Award for Research. Lead by Dr Oliver Van Hecke, the project co-produced a series of evidenced-directed infographics about antibiotics for three common childhood infections and benefitted from bringing together a transdisciplinary team of parents, information design experts, and academia.

Oliver Van Hecke commented: “I was initially surprised, then elated and now humbled because this recognition is a culmination of all the great people along the way who believed in me."

The Antibiotic Guardian campaign, which takes a One Health approach, calls on everyone in the UK (the public, animal and human healthcare communities) to become Antibiotic Guardians by choosing one simple pledge about how they will make better use of these vital medicines.

The campaign is led by the UK Health Security Agency in collaboration with the Devolved Administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and other organisations.

To read the full shortlist for all the awards, click here.