Some simple things you can do to help:
- follow your health professional’s instructions when they prescribe antibiotics for you
- If you have any unused antibiotics (including ointments), don’t flush them down the toilet or put them in the bin and don’t keep them for future use
- The Return of Unwanted Medicines Project provides a free and easy way to dispose of unwanted medicines. Return them to any pharmacy taking part in the project.
- don’t use antibiotics prescribed for other people – they may not be right for you
- remember, antibiotics don’t work against viruses so they can’t help treat your cold or flu
- remember, antibiotics are not super drugs – they treat certain bacteria under certain conditions. They are not a catch-all treatment which you can take just in case
- don’t pressure your doctor for antibiotics if they say you don’t need them – instead ask about other ways to relieve your symptoms
- preventing infections through good hand hygiene reduces the need for antibiotics and reduces resistance
- improper dressing of wounds, cuts and grazes can lead to infection and the need for antibiotics. Reduce this need by practicing proper wound care or seeking the advice of health professionals when needed. For more information visit https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/wounds-cuts-and-grazes
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from 18 to 24 November every year with this year’s theme being Preventing antimicrobial resistance together. The theme acknowledges the necessity for a One Health approach to address AMR. It’s an international initiative to increase awareness of the growing problem of AMR and other antimicrobial medicines.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest global threats to the health of humans and animals, plants and ecosystems. In our connected world, resistance to antimicrobials may spread and circulate among humans, animals, plants and the environment, necessitating a “One Health” approach. One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. AMR occurs when some of the germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites) that cause infections resist the effects of the medicines used to treat them. The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is a major factor in increasing the rate at which AMR is occurring.
In 2022 36.6% of the Australian population had at least one antimicrobial supplied, compared to 32.9% in 2021. People aged 65 years and over received the highest number of antimicrobial prescriptions (1–2 per person on average).1
Data from The Fifth Australian Report on Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Human Health – AURA 2023, shows:
- Australia continues to have high rates of antimicrobial usage when compared to European countries and Canada. 2
- Despite an increase in the number of prescriptions supplied in 2022 compared to 2021, rates remained well below those observed before to the pandemic.2
The cost of AMR to the economy is substantial. Without effective antimicrobials, the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy, is at risk. It can also lead to prolonged illness which results in longer hospital stays, the need for more expensive medicines, and financial challenges for those impacted.
A recent study estimated that Australian hospitals spend an extra $11.3 million yearly treating just two AMR threats:
- ceftriaxone-resistant Escherichia coli bloodstream infections, and
- methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.3
AMR is a problem and one with the potential to develop into a global health crisis. The good news is that we can all act to slow down the rate of AMR. One of the most effective ways we can do that is by making sure we use our antibiotics as directed. This helps ensure medicines remain effective in dealing with serious illnesses but also common infections.
The Australian Government is implementing a National AMR Strategy for 2020 and Beyond. Which calls for a shared responsibility across the health, agriculture, and environment sectors.
To read about the National AMR Strategy or to learn more about AMR in general
1. Analysis of 2015-2022 PBS and RPBS antimicrobial dispensing data (2023), Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Available at: https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/publications-and-resources/resource… Accessed 01 November 2023
2. Fifth Australian report on antimicrobial use and resistance in human health - AURA 2023. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care at www.safetyandquality.gov.au/AURA2023, Accessed 16 November 2024
3. Wozniak TM, Bailey EJ, Graves N. Health and economic burden of antimicrobial-resistant infections in Australian hospitals: a population- based model. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2019; 40(3): 320–327, Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30887942/ Accessed 14 November 2023