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Antibiotic Awareness Week 2014: "Imagine a world without antibiotics"

17 November, 2014

Antibiotic Awareness Week 2014 is being held across Australia (17-23 November), and NPS MedicineWise is asking all Australians to imagine a world without antibiotics and join the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic Awareness Week is a timely reminder that we all urgently need to take action to change the course of antibiotic resistance, according to NPS MedicineWise CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes.

She said the threat of antibiotics losing their power is a real prospect in the Australian community: without individual action, Australians face a dire future where simple infections could be life-threatening and surgery is deemed too high risk.

A real and significant threat

"Australians need to understand that antibiotic resistance is a significant and very real threat to personal health.

"As more antibiotics become ineffective against bacterial infections, we face the prospect of returning to a pre-antibiotics era where conditions we've been able to historically treat with antibiotics become untreatable.

"This is a serious public health issue and it requires everyone to take action.

"The inappropriate use of antibiotics on an individual level contributes to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.

"Using antibiotics when you don't need them may mean that they won't work for you when you do need them in the future."

Examples of bacteria in the community that have already developed resistance to a number of antibiotics include strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that cause many urinary tract infections and 'Golden Staph', a common cause of skin infections. Failure of the last-resort antibiotic treatment for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea has been reported, and Australia has already experienced cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the community.

Dr Weekes said that a world without antibiotics is very real prospect unless we all join the fight to prevent antibiotic resistance.

"This is not just an issue our children or grandchildren will face. Antibiotic resistance is occurring in the community now and could easily affect any one of us," she said.

"The more antibiotics are used, the more chance bacteria have to become resistant to them. If people take them inappropriately, when they are not needed or carelessly, it could have direct implications for them, their family and their community.

"The good news though is action now from individuals and health professionals can help prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance."

Antibiotic Awareness Week key messages:

  • Antibiotic resistance is a personal threat that requires personal action. It is not just someone else's problem.
  • Antibiotic resistance is not only a major issue for hospitals, veterinarians, or countries overseas. It is happening right now in the Australian community.
  • Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is increasing the problem of antibiotic resistance. We are all part of the problem and the solution.
  • Don't always expect an antibiotic– they do not work for all infections.
  • If you are prescribed an antibiotic, ask why it is necessary for your illness.
  • When you need antibiotics take them exactly as prescribed. Never save leftovers for another time or another person.
  • Always practise good hygiene to avoid infections and prevent them spreading to others.

This Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is calling on all health professionals and the Australian community to commit to change by pledging to fight antibiotic resistance at www.nps.org.au/join-the-fight.

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