World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from 18 to 24 November every year with this year’s theme Spread Awareness: Stop Resistance. It’s an international initiative to increase awareness of the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines.

Join the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – use antibiotics wisely so they remain effective in treating serious disease. Some simple things you can do to help:

  • Follow your health professional’s instructions for prescribed antibiotics
  • Return unused antibiotics to your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely
  • Don’t use antibiotics prescribed for other people
  • Don’t pressure your doctor for antibiotics if they say you don’t need them, and
  • Remember, antibiotics don’t work against viruses – they only work against particular bacteria in certain conditions.

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. Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is a major factor in increasing the rate at which AMR is occurring. This is especially true in Australia, where we use lots of antibiotics. Australia is in the top 10% for per‐capita antibiotic consumption in the world. Almost half of Australians are prescribed at least one course of antibiotics on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme each year.

Data released on 13 September 2021 from The Fourth Australian Report on Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Human Health – AURA 2021, shows:

  • that Australia continues to have very high rates of antimicrobial usage in the community
  • increased use in hospitals with no improvement in appropriate prescribing
  • the importance of continuing to reduce inappropriate antimicrobial prescribing and use in hospitals and the community
  • the need to find new ways to support behaviour change and improve compliance with best practice prescribing and stewardship guidelines.

The cost of AMR to the economy is significant. Without effective antimicrobials, we risk the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy. It can also lead to prolonged illness which results in:

  • longer hospital stays
  • the need for more expensive medicines
  • financial challenges for those impacted.

An average of 290 Australians die each year due to infections from resistant bacteria. By 2050, an estimated total of 10,430 people will die in Australia every year due to AMR. Worldwide, this figure is expected to be 10 million.

A recent study estimated that Australian hospitals spend an extra $11.3 million annually treating just 2 AMR threats:

  • ceftriaxone-resistant Escherichia colibloodstream infections
  • methicillin‐resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) infections.

MRSA and vancomycin‐resistant enterococcus have been reoccurring in Australian hospitals for decades. While we have made some progress in reducing MRSA infections, Australia still has one of the highest rates of vancomycin‐resistant enterococcus infection in the world.

It’s a serious problem and one with the potential to develop into a global health crisis. The good news is that each one of us can 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 appropriately. This helps ensure medicines remain effective not only 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 portfolios
  • enhanced collaboration between the Australian Government and state and territory governments.

Read a statement by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Chief Veterinary officer and Chief Environmental Security Officer about World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.

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