A new report has warned about a growing number of infections becoming resistant to antibiotics.
Antibiotics were prescribed to roughly a third of Australians last year. Last week, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care warned that figure is too high.
Despite national antibiotic use being below pre-pandemic levels, hundreds of Australians die every year from drug-resistant
Antibiotics are medicines that help fight harmful microbes (bacteria or parasites).
Overuse of antibiotics can lead to what’s known as “antimicrobial resistance” — when antibiotics become ineffective in killing or stopping certain infections.
Common infections, such as golden staph and gonorrhoea, are becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
Antibiotic use has decreased by around 20% since before COVID-19, due to restricted movement and lockdowns limiting the spread of common infections.
However, the report said there was an uptick in antibiotic use in 2022.
It also warned that Australia ranks among the highest in the world for prescribing antibiotics, ahead of most European countries, England, and Canada.
Professor Peter Collignon from the Health Care Safety Commission said for serious infections like meningitis, pneumonia or sepsis, “you will need antibiotics to stay alive.”
“Yet for many people dealing with non-serious illnesses, this is not the case.”
The commission said practices in Australia around prescribing antibiotics need to change. It wants to ensure patitens aren’t taking antibiotics unnecessarily and increasing the risk of treatment-resistant infections.
Australia’s chief science agency CSIRO has previously warned against over-prescribing antibiotics.
Professor John Turnidge urged doctors to “think twice before automatically prescribing and using antibiotics” and warned against people taking them “just in case”.
He also called for improved guidelines in aged care, where antibiotics are commonly prescribed for conditions like urinary tract infections. Otherwise, it could risk an outbreak of drug-resistant infections, according to Professor Turnidge.