While efforts in hospitals to improve antibiotic use are working, the same can’t be said for the community setting

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) 2017: Second Australian report on antimicrobial use and resistance in human health found that there have been recent gains in efforts to encourage more careful use of antibiotics in hospitals.

Professor John Turnidge, senior medical adviser at the Commission, says the results are encouraging, and that it is “good to see the message beginning to get through.”

But he also warned that the same report found that prescribing for antibiotics in the community had not shown the same improvements.

Instead, community-type methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA) now causes more bloodstream infections than hospital-type MRSA.

He urged health professionals and the public to be “part of the solution” on antibiotic resistance.

The Commission is urging all Australians to take action to slow the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria during Antibiotic Awareness Week (13-19 November).

 “This Antibiotic Awareness Week we want to encourage people to take action to slow antibiotic resistance by reducing unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics,” says Prof Turnidge. 

“Tackling antibiotic resistance requires a combination of strategies.

“Along with using antibiotics safely and appropriately, we need to practise good hand hygiene, infection prevention and control, and get immunised.

“There is a role for everyone in this fight, ranging from not taking antibiotics for a viral illness like a cold, to observing the five moments for hand hygiene, to ensuring you have best practice infection control processes.”

Meanwhile, NPS MedicineWise has released figures which show millennials are confused about antibiotics.

Over a third – 35% – of 16 to 24 year olds ask their health professionals for antibiotics when they have colds or flu, its latest survey has revealed.

The results indicate that younger Australians may be unaware that antibiotics are ineffective for viral infections, NPS says.

Respondents over the age of 75 are the least likely Australians to ask for antibiotics when they’re not needed, with just 13% saying they’d ask for these medicines to treat a cold or flu.

The survey found that requests for antibiotics to combat a cold or flu generally decrease with age: 14% of 65 to 74 year olds would ask, followed by people aged 55 to 64 (17%), 45 to 54 (19%), 35 to 44 (20%) and 25 to 34 (27%).

NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser, Dr Andrew Boyden said: “This research shows many young people appear to lack knowledge about antibiotics and their purpose.

“Unless the excessive use of antibiotics in our community can be dramatically curbed, unfortunately it will be the younger generations who will be more exposed to antibiotic resistance as time goes on.

“We need to raise awareness, particularly in younger people, that antibiotics are a precious resource which are ineffective for the treatment of viruses, and should be reserved for the treatment of bacterial infections.

“However, this problem isn’t isolated to only young people — our survey also suggested that that four in every 10 Australians would ask their GP for an antibiotic to treat their cold or flu.”

The Federal Government has also launched a new online resource for industry and the community.

“The new AMR website has information for the community, health professionals, animal health professionals, farmers, animal owners and the broader agriculture industry,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt and Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Luke Hartsuyker in a statement.

“Australia is one of the developed world’s highest users of antibiotics – one of the main causes of AMR.”

The new site can be accessed here.