How Australians can reduce antibiotic resistance

Joint statement from Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Medical Officer on how Australians can reduce antibiotic resistance

World Antibiotic Awareness Week, 18 – 24 November 2019

Antibiotics are an essential part of modern medicine; they are used to treat a range of bacterial infections in humans and animals. Unfortunately, antibiotic resistance is a growing problem that poses a serious threat to human and animal health in Australia and worldwide.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally in microorganisms like bacteria, but is accelerated when they are exposed to antibiotics. As a result, these antibiotics become less effective over time.

Resistant bacteria can spread between people, animals and the environment. Infections with resistant bacteria can lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased likelihood of death. In the future, antibiotic resistance may make it difficult to treat many common bacterial infections.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week is a reminder that we all have a role to play to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance in Australia. If we all work to keep ourselves and our animals healthy and prevent infections in the first place, we can reduce our need for antibiotics. When antibiotics are essential, using them appropriately will reduce the speed at which bacteria develop antibiotic resistance.

Easy steps that prevent infections in people:

  • Keep vaccinations up-to-date for yourself and your family
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  • Prepare food hygienically. Wash fruits and vegetables prior to eating, and cook food properly
  • Limit close contact with others when you are sick
  • Practise safe sex

And to prevent infections in animals:

  • Keep their vaccinations up-to-date
  • Use good biosecurity, on-farm hygiene and animal welfare practices
  • Provide appropriate nutrition and clean housing
  • If your animal is sick, separate it from other animals and consult your veterinarian

It’s important to know that not all sick people and animals need antibiotics.

Trust your health professional and veterinarian, and don’t pressure them for antibiotics. If you or your animal is prescribed antibiotics, follow the instructions in full and only use the antibiotics that are prescribed. If you have any unwanted or expired medicine, take it out of its packaging and return it to your local pharmacy for free disposal via the Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project. Find out more at www.returnmed.com.au

More information on what we can all do to reduce antibiotic resistance can be found at www.amr.gov.au.

Professor Brendan Murphy, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer
Dr Mark Schipp, Australian Chief Veterinary Officer

Date published: 
18 November 2019