National Alert System for Critical Antimicrobial Resistances (CARAlert)
The National Alert System for Critical Antimicrobial Resistances (CARAlert) collects data on nationally agreed priority organisms with critical resistance to last-line antimicrobial agents. Bimonthly CARAlert data updates, and other more detailed reports, are published regularly on this page. The most recent CARAlert data update, for the period 1 May 2020 to 30 June 2020, is now available.
CARAlert was established by the Commission in March 2016, as part of the AURA Surveillance System, to collect data on critical antimicrobial resistances (CARs) and provide regular reports on these critical resistances in Australia to inform action to prevent and contain resistance.
Data updates and reports
What is a critical antimicrobial resistance?
A CAR is a resistance mechanism, or profile, known to be a serious threat to the effectiveness of last-line antimicrobial agents.
Which CARs are reported to CARAlert?
Following a review that was completed in 2018, four new CARs were added to the list of CARs reported under CARAlert. From 1 January 2019, the CARS listed in table below will be reported to CARAlert.
* If the specimen with a confirmed CAR was collected in 2019, if can be submitted retrospectively
† For CARAlert, S. aureus includes S. argenteus
Why did the Commission establish CARAlert?
The Commission established CARAlert to complement the existing processes for confirming CARs and to develop a system to provide more timely advice to state and territory health authorities on the occurrence of CARs in their hospitals and nationally.
While some data on CARs are captured through existing surveillance programs, the CARAlert system is the first nationally coordinated system that supports communication of information on confirmed CARs and potential CAR outbreaks as close as possible to the time of confirmation.
How does CARAlert work?
The CARAlert system is based on routine processes and practices used by pathology laboratories for identifying a potential critically resistant isolate and referring that isolate to a confirming laboratory with the capacity to confirm the CAR.
Public and private pathology laboratories that have the capacity to confirm CARs were identified via consultation with state and territory health authorities, the Public Health Laboratory Network and the Australian Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. These confirming laboratories have agreed to report confirmed CARs to CARAlert via a specially developed secure web portal, in addition to their routine processes.
The routine reporting practice is for the confirming laboratory to advise the originating laboratory of the result. The originating laboratory subsequently notifies the clinician who referred the specimen that a CAR has been confirmed.
The CARAlert system ensures that the information on confirmed CARs is also reported to state and territory health authorities and the Australian Government Department of Health on a weekly basis.
What information is provided to health authorities?
Information that could be used to identify a patient is not entered into CARAlert.
All health authorities are provided with information regarding the state or territory where the CAR isolate originated, the confirmation date and whether the patient who had the infection was admitted to hospital or was in the community at the time the specimen was collected.
Since October 2016 state and territory health authorities have also been able to access the name of the public hospital where the patient who had the infection was being cared for at the time the specimen was collected. This enables them to monitor the geographic distribution of CARs and to liaise with hospitals as appropriate, to confirm infection control action has been taken in the event of an outbreak.
Why is it important to monitor CARs?
Antimicrobial resistance is a serious health threat. The loss of effective antimicrobials through increased antimicrobial resistance will compromise Australia’s ability to fight infectious diseases and manage infectious complications common in vulnerable patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, dialysis for renal failure, and surgery. Documenting CARs and providing the information about their occurrence, in a timely manner, to those who have the capacity to intervene ensures that outbreaks can be contained and the efficacy of last-line antimicrobials is maintained for as long as possible.
Is confirmation of a CAR important for treatment of an infected patient?
No. Confirmation of a CAR may not occur until some time after the infected patient has been treated and/or discharged from hospital. The occurrence of possible CARs in an individual patient is communicated to treating clinicians before a CAR is confirmed, so that appropriate treatment and/or infection control measures can be initiated.
The role of CARAlert is to monitor trends in the development of antimicrobial resistance in Australia in near realtime, for timely identification of clusters of infections and outbreaks, and for implementation and review of infection control strategies in the event of an outbreak.
The laboratory that performs the initial antimicrobial test (the originating laboratory) will, in accordance with usual processes, have advised the treating doctor, and infection control staff where appropriate, of the antimicrobial susceptibility profile of the isolate to enable timely and appropriate treatment to be prescribed for the infected patient.
Are private hospitals included in CARAlert?
The laboratories that provide pathology services to private hospitals issue reports on the confirmation of CARs in the same way as occurs for public hospitals.
What has been learned from reports of confirmed CARs since CARAlert commenced?
Since December 2016 azithromycin non-susceptible Neisseria gonorrhoeae and carbapenemase-resistant Enterobacterales (CPE), either alone or in combination with ribosomal methyltransferases (RMT), have been the most frequently reported CARs.
The majority of CARs are reported from the three most populous states – New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The IMP-type carbapenemase (mainly IMP-4) is now endemic on the eastern seaboard of Australia in several species of Enterobacterales, particularly E. cloacae; this means that it is difficult to eliminate, and rigorous control measures are essential. There is no evidence that other carbapenemases have become established in Australia to date.
The number of CPE reported, and the endemicity of IMP-type carbapenemase, highlight the importance of implementing actions outlined within the Commission’s Recommendations for the control of carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae: A guide for acute health facilities.
The frequency of reporting of azithromycin non-susceptible N. gonorrhoeae has occurred in the context of a significant increase in notifications of N. gonorrhoeae and there have been sporadic cases of ceftriaxone-nonsusceptible or azithromycin-nonsusceptible (high-level resistance) N. gonorrhoeae.
CARAlert data undergo regular epidemiological analysis; statistical methods for evaluating temporal and spatial trends will be implemented as the data collection matures.
Have any outbreaks of CARs been detected since CARAlert commenced in March 2016?
An outbreak of OXA-48 producing E. coli ST38 was detected in Queensland, where 80 cases were reported between May 2017 and July 2017.
In response to the identification of the index case, the hospital where the outbreak occurred implemented a program that included:
- Identifying and screening contacts of the index case and newly admitted patients to identify others infected or colonised with OXA-48 producing E. coli ST38
- Ensuring the appropriate use of standard and contact infection control precautions
- Environmental cleaning and disinfection
- Reviewing and implementing appropriate antimicrobial stewardship measures
The outbreak was largely confined to a single facility, and was controlled within two months. Queensland Health hospitals have strategies in place to ensure early detection of any future CPE cases, and control and prevention of transmission.
Which hospitals have the highest number of CARs?
The number of CARs reported nationally is relatively small compared with the number of admissions to hospitals.
Hospital-level data have been collected and available to state and territory health authorities since October 2016.
CARAlert Isolate Referral Form
Please note the above link is an interactive Word document.
You will need to right click on the link and select the “save link as” or ”save target as” option (depending on the browser you are using) to access the form.