Under microscope: Australia’s efforts to curb antimicrobial resistance

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon David Littleproud MP

Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP

The Australian Government has published the Final Progress Report for Australia’s First National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019 detailing our efforts to limit the incidence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Australia.

AMR is recognised as one of the most serious health problems facing the world. As bacteria, viruses and fungi continue to develop resistance to existing medications, this presents a greater risk of serious health impacts, as well as affecting food production, and the livelihoods and security of producers.

In 2020, the Australian Government released the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 & Beyond and announced more than $22.5 million over four years in the 2020¬-21 Budget to implement it.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said that globally the use of antibiotics in livestock had been recognised as a potential source for antimicrobial resistance.

“Australia is a world leader in minimising the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals which means that there is a low risk of developing antimicrobial resistance from animals in this country,” Minister Littleproud said.

“We have introduced regulatory and industry changes to ensure that registered animal antimicrobials that are medically important for human health no longer claim to promote growth in animals.”

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said the report identified important AMR initiatives and the collaborative efforts by government and private sector organisations across the One Health sectors of human and animal health, food and the environment.

“These combined efforts aim to minimise the emergence and spread of drug-resistant organisms in Australia and the region will ensure antimicrobial medicines continue to be effective and available to treat infections into the future,” Minister Hunt said.

“We have seen antibiotic dispensing rates for Australians steadily decrease, down approximately 13 per cent since a peak in 2015, equating to around two million fewer prescriptions dispensed, which is a really positive development.

“This and other initiatives show there is increasing understanding and awareness among doctors and the community of the importance of only using antibiotics when absolutely necessary.”

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, said Australian research is adding to our understanding of how antimicrobials enter our environment and accumulate over time.

“It’s not just limited to hospital floors, drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and fungi can evolve in any environment,” Minister Ley said.

“Our new national AMR strategy will be supported with initiatives including developing a ‘One Health’ surveillance system, a national antimicrobial resistance research and development agenda and a national monitoring and evaluation framework.”

Minister Ley is a member of the One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.

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