Australians growing more aware of antibiotic resistance
As part of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12–18 November 2018), not-for-profit organisation NPS MedicineWise has released new research into antibiotic resistance in Australia — and the results are a mixed bag of good news and bad news.
As explained by NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris, the high use of antibiotics in Australia is increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance. This occurs when bacteria in the body become resistant to the effects of antibiotics, making infections much more difficult to treat and increasing the chance of resistant bacteria spreading to other people.
“We know that almost one in every two Australians (45%) takes an antibiotic each year, and our nation’s consumption levels are higher than those of comparable countries such as the UK and the Netherlands,” Morris said.
The upside is that Australians’ knowledge of the problem of antibiotic resistance is improving, with more Australians reporting awareness of the term “antibiotic resistance” in 2017 (74%) compared to 70% in 2014.
“According to our survey of 2500 consumers, the belief that antibiotic resistance is affecting us now has more than doubled in recent years, from 11% in 2015 to 25% in 2017, indicating our campaigns have had an impact and people are more aware of the problem,” Morris said.
NPS MedicineWise programs support health professionals and consumers to use antibiotics wisely, including the five-year Reducing Antibiotic Resistance program, which ran from 2012–2017. The organisation this year published research about the impact of antimicrobial-resistance programs and antibiotic dispensing for upper respiratory tract infection in Australia.
“Our research identified an estimated 14% reduction in the number of dispensed antibiotics compared to what would have been expected if NPS MedicineWise programs had not been implemented, which shows these programs are contributing to addressing this complex problem,” Morris said.
While it is positive to see more Australians aware of antibiotic resistance alongside a reduction in inappropriate prescribing, Morris said the research also indicates many people lack awareness of the potential consequences antibiotic resistance can have on their health.
“While people have become more aware of antibiotic resistance in recent years, most people still don’t think it will affect them personally,” he said. “There’s more work needed to educate individuals, families and communities about this problem — it really is time to take antibiotic resistance seriously.
“If you have an infection caused by a bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics, it is a more serious infection, more difficult to treat and it can spread to your friends and family. To avoid this, more people need to understand that antibiotics should only be used when they are needed and prescribed appropriately, because the consequences of not doing so are considerable.”
As part of this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is promoting online resources to help people learn more about antibiotic resistance, so they can have informed conversations with their health professional and ensure they are only taking antibiotics when needed. For more information, visit www.nps.org.au/antibiotic-awareness.
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