The Australian Government is taking strong steps to address the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as part of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.
AMR is a significant global health threat and is the result of viruses and bacteria changing over time, which can lead to them no longer responding to medicines and medical treatment.
AMR makes it harder to treat common infections, which increases the risk of disease spread, illness and death in humans and animals.
Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are the main contributors to the development of drug-resistant pathogens, which can affect human, and domestic and farm animal health.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the Australian Government has committed $22.5 million in this year’s Budget to address the priorities identified in Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 & Beyond.
“We are working to ensure Australian prescribers are turning to antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic medicines only when they are absolutely necessary,” Minister Hunt said.
“Over-prescription of antimicrobials can contribute to antimicrobial resistance. This makes it harder to treat common infections with our standard medicines, so among our actions in response to the risk is continued investment in surveillance of antimicrobial use and resistance.
“We are also supporting the development of a Multi-Drug Resistant Organism (MRO) outbreak response capability with health authorities in the states and territories. Just like the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, quick action and intervention when MROs are detected is critical to keeping on top of the situation.”
The Government investment is also helping develop a National AMR One Health Research and Development Agenda to identify gaps and priority areas for research on the prevention, detection and containment of AMR across all areas of research.
A new scoping study on pricing and reimbursement will also examine ways to support and incentivise new products that prevent, detect and contain drug-resistant infections in Australia
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said shared responsibility across health, agriculture and environment was needed to address antimicrobial resistance.
“While AMR in human health remains the most pressing issue, there are steps which need to be considered in agriculture as well,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Our livestock farmers and veterinarians need to also be aware their use of antimicrobial medicine should only be for necessary cases, as agricultural use can also lead to resistant disease in the future.
“The planning phase for a One Health Surveillance System will get underway soon in consultation with stakeholders including in health and agriculture, to integrate resistance and usage data from human health, animal health, agriculture, food and environment sectors right across Australia.”
Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, said that interconnection between humans, agriculture and the environment highlighted the need to tackle the challenges of antimicrobial resistance.
“Antimicrobials enter the environment every day and can accumulate over time leading to either harmful effects or increases of antimicrobial resistance in microbes,” Minister Ley said.
“Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy reflects a commitment to addressing the threat that antimicrobial resistance poses across different sectors, including Australia’s unique and diverse environment.”
The World Health Organization has declared AMR one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.
Around the world people die or are left with permanent disability because of AMR disease. It can also lead to prolonged illness, longer hospital stays, the need for more expensive medicines and financial challenges for those affected.
Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from 18-24 November.