What is AGAR?

AGAR is a unique collaboration of clinicians and scientists from major microbiology laboratories around Australia. AGAR tests and gathers information on the level of antibiotic resistance in bacteria causing important and life threatening infections around Australia. The group started in 1985 and at that time involved 13 teaching hospitals. It has subsequently grown to involve 30 institutions including 4 private laboratories. This broadening of the group has meant that not only does the group have good information as to what is happening with major pathogens in the larger teaching hospitals in each State and Territory, but now also has the ability to monitor what is happening with resistance rates in private hospitals and with patients in the community being treated by General Practitioners.


Just about every bacterial infection causing serious infections both in the community and in hospitals has been monitored. The main focus of the group has been antimicrobial resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (indeed the group started with the name The Staph. Awareness Group) but since that time has broadened to include studies on E. coli, Enterobacter spp., Klebsiella spp., Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Enterococcus spp.


In addition to antimicrobial resistance other projects have looked at the applicability of various typing methods. With Staphylococcus aureus, this has included phage typing and molecular microbiology techniques.


By standardised methodology AGAR has been able to collect ongoing data on what is happening in this country over long periods of time. The group has also been very successful in being able to make this information available to the broader community both through publications in scientific journals and also numerous presentations at meetings and to groups around Australia and Internationally (see Publications). This has led to important benefits within Australia. Among these benefits has been the ability to allow more rational use of antibiotics based on known Australia wide resistance patterns.


This group is very grateful to Eli Lilly who from 1985 to 2002 provided sufficient funding for the group to meet on a regular basis so that these projects can be planned and implemented. We are grateful to the Australian Commonwealth Government for providing funds since 2004. None of this work would have been possible had it not been for the Microbiology Laboratories involved who have donated their time and resources.


Thanks must also go to Dade Diagnostics Australia, who provided AGAR with investigational panels for testing Gram negative bacilli until 2004, bioMerieux for providing Vitek cards for surveys since 2006 and Wyeth, Novartis and MSD Australia for generously supplying the group with Etest strips for many projects.


Graeme R. Nimmo


Peter J. Collignon