Australians’ knowledge of antibiotic resistance better but not enough: World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018

New research has found more Australians are becoming aware of antibiotic resistance and its serious threat to their health, and the health of their family and community—but there is further work to be done to reduce the impact of this global problem, according to NPS MedicineWise, the lead organisation for quality use of medicines in Australia.

Ahead of World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12–18 November 2018), NPS MedicineWise CEO Steve Morris says 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,” said Mr Morris.

However, as part of this year’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week, new research* from NPS MedicineWise indicates Australians’ knowledge of the problem of antibiotic resistance is improving. More Australians reported awareness of the term ‘antibiotic resistance’ in 2017 (74%) compared to 70% in 2014.

“According to our survey of 2,500 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,” said Mr Morris.

One of the causes of antibiotic resistance is inappropriate use of antibiotics. NPS MedicineWise programs support health professionals and consumers to use antibiotics wisely, including the 5-year Reducing Antibiotic Resistance program, which ran from 2012-2017.

In 2018, NPS MedicineWise 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,” he said.

While it is positive to see more Australians aware of antibiotic resistance alongside a reduction in inappropriate prescribing, Mr Morris says 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. There’s more work needed to educate individuals, families and communities about this problem—it really is time to take antibiotic resistance seriously,” Mr Morris said.

“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 and evidence-based information for people to

/Public Release.