Experts say Australia should fight harder in the war against antimicrobial resistance. 

A recent national report says Australia has experienced one of the most substantial declines in antibiotic use in decades, due partly to the impact of COVID-19. 

However, there are growing concerns that the country is still at risk of losing the battle against drug-resistant infections.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care's latest report, AURA 2023, reveals a 19 per cent reduction in community antibiotic use since 2019. 

Despite this positive trend, Australia remains one of the highest users of antibiotics globally, posing a challenge in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The report identifies adverse side effects from antibiotics and the emergence of increasingly resistant dangerous bacteria as significant issues. 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms develop resistance to previously effective treatments, leading to difficulties in addressing serious infections.

Professor John Turnidge, Senior Medical Advisor for the Commission, acknowledges the positive impact of COVID-19 on reducing antimicrobial prescribing, but says there is still a need for sustained efforts to combat one of the most critical health challenges.

While the report highlights an overall drop in antimicrobial use since 2019, with a notable 25 per cent decline in 2020 and 2021, there is a recent 10 per cent uptick in 2022. 

The report outlines reasons for the decline, including policy changes in 2020 and COVID-19-related restrictions reducing respiratory tract infections. 

Professor Turnidge has called for smarter prescribing practices, saying it is important to adhere to guidelines in various healthcare settings.

Professor Peter Collignon, Senior Medical Advisor for the Commission, stresses the need for increased efforts to prevent infections and build awareness of the risks associated with antimicrobials. 

He says the benefits must be weighed against adverse effects, noting that good hygiene habits established during COVID-19 can contribute to reducing antibiotic use.

AURA 2023 underlines the ongoing health risk of antimicrobial resistance, citing key pathogens increasingly resistant to major drug classes.

 Professor Turnidge warns that antimicrobial-resistant germs pose a significant health risk, with potential consequences for patients when antibiotics become ineffective.

At the start of World AMR Awareness Week, running from November 18 to 25, the report serves as a timely reminder of the risks of antibiotic overuse and the critical role of hygiene habits in preventing infections.