Joint statement by the Australia's Acting Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Veterinary Officer to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020

Antimicrobials are used against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, which can make us sick. Antimicrobials are also used in animal and plant health. So to reduce antimicrobial resistance we need to recognise the interconnection between people, animals, plants and our shared environment. This is called a 'One Health' approach.

Antimicrobial resistance is a natural occurrence, but it gets worse when antimicrobials are overused or used incorrectly. Resistant microbes can then spread between people, animals and the environment and lead to resistant infections. Resistant infections lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical or veterinary costs, decreased productivity and increased risk of death.

Antimicrobial resistance is developing more quickly than new medicines are becoming available.  For people, antimicrobial resistance is a serious problem. Antimicrobials are important medicines that have saved millions of lives. There has been some recent good news in relation to this issue: there has been a reduction in antimicrobial use in the Australian population. However, there is evidence that we continue to use them incorrectly. We can do better.

Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond was released in March 2020. It sets a 20-year vision to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment from antimicrobial resistance. It requires action by all Australian governments, industries, professionals, the research community and the general public. In the recent Budget, the Government announced $22.5 million over 4 years to support the implementation of this Strategy.

The Australian Government will continue to lead Australia’s response to antimicrobial resistance, but we all share the responsibility to only use antimicrobials when it is necessary and as little as possible.

Follow these easy steps so that together we can reduce antimicrobial resistance:

  • only use antimicrobials as directed
  • don’t share antimicrobials or save them for another time
  • ensure that you always follow the advice of your health professional and veterinarian when using antimicrobials
  • prevent infections spreading in the first place and avoid using antimicrobials 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:
    • use good biosecurity, on-farm hygiene, and animal welfare and husbandry practices
    • keep their vaccinations up-to-date
    • provide appropriate nutrition and clean housing
    • seek advice from your local veterinarian if they are sick.

It’s also important to know that not all sick people and animals need antimicrobials in the first instance.

Trust your health professional and veterinarian, and don’t pressure them for antimicrobials. If you or your animal is prescribed antimicrobials, fully follow the instructions and only use antimicrobials that are prescribed.

Find out more about antimicrobial resistance and how it affects your life, the lives of our animals and our agriculture.

Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global threat to human and animal health. We encourage all Australians to play their part in reducing antimicrobial resistance by developing good habits around controlling infection in themselves and their animals.   

Together we can reduce the risk of resistance, if we handle antimicrobials with care!

Professor Paul Kelly
Acting Australian Government Chief Medical Officer

Dr Mark Schipp
Australian Chief Veterinary Officer

Date published: 
17 November 2020