The urgency of antibiotic resistance

Many Australians believe we are a safe ‘first world’ country, and antibiotic resistance won’t affect us.

But this World Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is joining health bodies from around the world in urging people to understand antibiotic resistance isn’t just happening in other countries: it’s happening here, and it’s happening now.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo says antibiotic resistance can affect anyone, of any age and in any country, including here in Australia, and it’s accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

A report published in October 2018 by Public Health England’s English Surveillance Programme for Antimicrobial Utilisation and Resistance, highlights how more than three million common medical procedures, such as caesarean sections and hip replacements, could become life-threatening without antibiotics.

The report describes how cancer patients are also more vulnerable to serious complications when antibiotics don’t work. This is because both cancer and chemotherapy reduce the ability of the immune system to fight infections.

A study published in The Lancet this month estimates that about 33,000 people die each year in Europe as a direct consequence of an infection due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and the burden of these infections is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined.

“We are all part of the problem, and this means we are all part of the solution, too. Consumers and health professionals alike can take steps to change the way we use antibiotics, and through this reduce antibiotic resistance,” Dr Yoo said.

“It’s time to take antibiotic resistance seriously.”

The NPS MedicineWise team has seen local health organisations here in Australia get on board with World Antibiotic Awareness Week, including the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Eastern Health in Victoria. Antibiotic resistance fighters from around the world will be collaborating on a ‘Twitter storm’, using the hashtag #AntibioticResistance




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