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Combating antibiotic resistance in Australia

Key stakeholders are being called upon to take action on antimicrobial resistance by reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

A major cause of antibiotic resistance, a growing issue in Australia and internationally, is the unnecessary and inappropriate use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials, resulting in resistance of bacteria to these drugs.

As part of a national action to combat antimicrobial resistance, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has launched Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Hospitals 2011. The book demonstrates that an organised antimicrobial management program – known as antimicrobial stewardship - is an effective approach to antimicrobial resistance. When combined with hand hygiene and infection control programs antimicrobial stewardship reduces the rate of healthcare-associated infection by resistant organisms and subsequent transmission to other patients.

Margaret Duguid, the Commission’s pharmaceutical advisor, said that up to 50 per cent of antimicrobial courses prescribed in Australian hospitals were considered inappropriate.

“Comparison with northern Europe shows Australian hospitals have a higher rate of antimicrobial use. Unnecessary and inappropriate use of antimicrobials costs lives. It drives the development of pathogens resistant to antibiotics and other antimicrobials and poses the real risk that health professionals and health consumers will face a future with few effective antimicrobials. It also adds to the cost of health care,” she said.

A hard copy of Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian Hospitals 2011 has been sent to all hospitals in Australia, and the Commission is undertaking a large number of initiatives to assist hospitals implement antimicrobial stewardship in their facilities in addition to providing copies of the book. These include:

* Providing a range of resources on its web site;
* Developing an antimicrobial prescribing online training module; and
* A checklist of essential AMS elements for hospital staff to use as a self-assessment tool (available in June from the Commission web site).

The book and other resources are available for downloading from www.safetyandquality.gov.au

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