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Third comprehensive report on antibiotic resistance identifies ongoing threat

EMBARGOED to 12.01am, Thursday 9 May 2019

The most comprehensive report produced on Australian antimicrobial use and resistance trends has found that antimicrobial use in the community is falling, but they continue to be overprescribed, while some dangerous bacteria are growing increasingly resistant to common antibiotics.

Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia 2019: Third Australian report on antimicrobial use and resistance in human health (AURA 2019), released by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) today, highlights a number of resistant bacteria as major healthcare problems.

The report warns that antimicrobial resistance shows little sign of abating and poses an ongoing risk to patient safety, with common pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis becoming increasingly resistant to major drug classes, and some organisms resistant to last-resort treatments.

Antimicrobial resistance is driven by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Encouragingly, AURA 2019 found that overall use of antibiotics in the community fell between 2015 and 2017 – the first decline in 20 years. This suggests ongoing and coordinated campaigns targeting GPs and consumers on the risks of using antibiotics inappropriately are beginning to cut through.

Despite these gains, almost half the samples of enterococci tested across Australia were resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin – a level higher than seen in any European country. AURA 2019 also found that community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become the most common type of MRSA infection, particularly in aged care homes and remote regions.

The report found that in 2017, more than 10 million Australians had a least one antibiotic dispensed in the community and more than 26.5 million prescriptions for antimicrobials were dispensed.

“While the downward shift in prescribing will help to slow the spread of resistance, these latest AURA findings indicate that the levels of inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in hospitals and the community are still too high and there is more work to be done,” said Dr Kathryn Daveson, the AURA Clinical Director.

“AURA 2019 also identifies focus areas that need increased attention – including reducing inappropriate prescribing of broad spectrum antibiotics, particularly for urinary tract and skin infections; and improving the appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory infections,” said Dr Daveson.

AURA 2019 provides a more comprehensive picture of antimicrobial resistance than previous reports because of the increased volume of data now captured by the AURA Surveillance System.

“The AURA reports are a key resource in Australia’s fight against the threat of increased antimicrobial resistances, including Critical Antimicrobial Resistances (CARs) that are resistant to last-line antibiotics,” said Professor John Turnidge AO, the Commission’s Senior Medical Advisor.

“The expanded AURA Surveillance System allows us to identify and track national trends in antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance, and monitor the effect of changes in policy and clinical practice, to a level that has not previously been possible.”

“This latest report is one of the most comprehensive of its type in the world. It will help give clinicians and health policy makers across Australia the data and information they need to develop targeted approaches to prevent and contain resistance,” said Professor Turnidge.

AURA 2019 will be launched by the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, and the Commission Chair, Professor Villis Marshall AC, at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney today.

AURA 2019 and supporting information sheets are available from the AURA 2019 page.



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Angela Jackson, Senior Communications Officer, (02) 9126 3513 or 0407 213 522

Ron Cuadra, Director, Communications, (02) 9126 3612 or 0429 211 376

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