Joint statement by the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer and the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer to mark World Antimicrobial Resistance

To mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week for 2023, we are reminding all Australians what antimicrobial resistance is, and what each of us can do to prevent it.

All Australians are encouraged to be responsible with the use of antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics, so that together we can all help prevent antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

'Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together' is the theme of World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week. Antimicrobials treat illness in people and animals caused by bacteria, some viruses, fungi, and parasites, and are important medicines that have saved millions of lives.

When antimicrobials, like antibiotics, are overused or used incorrectly, this can reduce their effectiveness because the microbes they are meant to treat become resistant to their effects. We call this antimicrobial resistance, which is a serious threat to human and animal health worldwide because it means these medicines might no longer work one day.

Antimicrobials should only be used when prescribed by medical and veterinary professionals, and it is important to follow the instructions for their proper use and only use the antimicrobials as directed.

It is also vital that our medical and veterinary professionals carefully consider their antimicrobial prescribing practices, following good antimicrobial stewardship guidelines to help prevent antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is developing more quickly than new medicines are becoming available. Microbes that are resistant to antimicrobials can spread between people, animals and the environment and lead to antimicrobial resistant infections, which in turn can lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical or veterinary costs, and increased risk of death.

The Australian Government and our partners across industry and the research community continue to work together to address and control antimicrobial resistance using a One Health approach, which acknowledges the connection between people, animals, plants and our shared environment in reducing antimicrobial resistance.

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond outlines Australia’s 20-year vision to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment from antimicrobial resistance.

The Australian Government will continue to lead Australia’s response to antimicrobial resistance, but we all share the responsibility to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials so they can be used when it is necessary.

Together we can reduce antimicrobial resistance by following these easy steps:

  • Always follow the advice of your medical and veterinary professional, and only use antimicrobials as directed.
  • Don’t share antimicrobials with other people.
  • Return any unused antimicrobials (including ointments) to your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely. Do not:
    • throw them out.
    • flush them down the toilet.
    • keep them for future use.
  • Don’t pressure your medical and veterinary professional for antimicrobials if they advise that antimicrobials are not required– instead ask about other ways to relieve symptoms.
  • Prevent infections spreading in the first place through:
    • regular hand washing.
    • coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your elbow.
    • keeping your vaccinations up-to-date.
  • If you have animals in your care:
    • dispose of unused animal antimicrobials by following the advice on the label or return them to your veterinarian or pharmacist.
    • use good biosecurity, on-farm hygiene, and animal welfare and husbandry practices.
    • keep animals vaccinations up-to-date.
    • seek advice from your local veterinarian when animals are sick.

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Together, we can reduce the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance, to ensure these important antimicrobial medicines work and are available into the future.

-Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer

-Dr Mark Schipp, Australian Chief Veterinary Officer

Date published:

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