Safety and Quality > National Priorities > Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia Project

What is antimicrobial resistance?

What is antimicrobial usage and why is it important?

Australia’s response to AMR

The role of the Commission in AMR and AU surveillance


 

What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a micro-organism (like bacteria, viruses and parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (this includes antibiotics which work against bacteria, antivirals and other anti-infective agents) from working effectively. As a result, standard medical treatments become ineffective; infections may persist; and the organisms causing them may spread to others.

Although AMR is a natural feature of bacterial evolution, the inappropriate use of antimicrobials (including their underuse, overuse and misuse) has increased the development of antibiotic‐resistant bacteria, not only in both human and animal health, but also in agriculture. 1

The World Health Organisation has highlighted AMR as a global issue of concern and has encouraged countries to commit to comprehensive national plans to combat antimicrobial resistance. 2

The British High Commission released the first paper from an independent review of AMR on 11 December 2014:

Back to top

What is antimicrobial usage and why is it important?

Antimicrobial usage (AU) is the application of chemical substance that inhibits or destroys bacteria, viruses or fungi which can be safely administered to humans or animals. Antimicrobial includes antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals.

The discovery and utilisation of antimicrobials has been one of the most significant steps forward in human health.  However, there is increasing recognition that their effectiveness is limited as a result of the emergence of resistant organisms. Worldwide, researchers, clinicians and policy makers are exploring mechanisms, such as lowering levels of AU and comprehensive and coordinated surveillance, in order to continue to protect human health and combat AMR into the future.

Back to top

Australia’s response to AMR

AMR involves a complex interplay of environmental, clinical and behavioural factors in humans, animals and agriculture. To achieve real progress, Australia’s response needs to be integrated across all these sectors.

This work is being led by the Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Containment (AMRPC) Steering Group, co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture. This Committee also includes the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer as members.

More information on the AMRPC Steering Group including the Colloquium Report

The Australian Health Protection Principle Committee (AHPPC) has provided oversight to the work of the Australian Antibiotic Resistance Standing Committee (AMRSC) which developed the National Surveillance and Reporting of Antimicrobial Resistance and Antibiotic Usage for Human Health in Australia. The Report recommended enhanced surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial usage (AU) be developed as a national priority.

More information about the work of AHPPC

Download the AMRSC report National Surveillance and Reporting of Antimicrobial Resistance and Antibiotic Usage for Human Health in Australia.

Back to top

The role of the Commission in AMR and AU surveillance

The Commission has an established role in working effectively with the public and private sectors, and has demonstrated achievements in coordination of a healthcare associated infection prevention program and accreditation schemes. As a result, the Commission has been engaged by the Department of Health to coordinate the development of a national antimicrobial resistance surveillance system as a significant platform for reducing the impact of antimicrobial resistance.

Development of this AMR and AU surveillance system, referred to as the Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) Project, has been supported with funding, over a three year period through the 2013/14 Australian Federal Budget measure to Improve Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Key deliverables of the AURA Project include:

  1. Provision of regular data and analysis to inform policy and program development.
  2. A Preliminary Report on AMR and AU surveillance in Australia, to provide a contemporary assessment of both antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic usage in Australia, based on the analysis of data sets, literature, reports and other information currently available.
  3. A Scoping Study of AMR and AU surveillance, to report on the current procedures, laboratory and pharmacy systems, surveillance reporting systems and data for AMR and AU, which will inform ways of enhancing, expanding and integrating surveillance systems. In doing so, it will also examine overseas models of surveillance and applicability to the Australian context, and identify the potential challenges and implications of establishing an integrated national surveillance system in Australia.
  4. The conduct of, and reporting on, a National Survey of Antibiotic Prescribing Practices.
  5. Establishment of a National Alert System to inform clinicians and policy makers of emerging and re-emerging highly resistant bacteria.

An AMR Coordination Unit has been established within the Commission to support this national initiative. The development of the national system will require considerable coordination of effort across Commonwealth agencies; with state and territory government bodies; professional organisations; and, the private sector.

Back to top

References

1. Office of the Chief Scientist. Meeting the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance: Building a New Frontline Defence. Occasional Paper Series. Canberra: Australian Government, 2013.

2. World Health Organisation. The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance: options for action. WHO, Geneva, 2012.

Back to top