Antimicrobial Awareness Week

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (AAW) is celebrated from 18 - 24 November each year. 

The overarching slogan for Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021 is Antimicrobials: handle with care and the theme for 2021 is Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance for the food, animal, agriculture and human health sectors.

The Commission supports AAW in Australia by providing a range of resources and coordinating initiatives to support the effective use of antimicrobials in preventing and containing antimicrobial resistance and local activities across the week.

What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms (such as bacteria) to stop an antimicrobial from working effectively. Whilst antimicrobials have the potential to treat infections, use of antimicrobials can also contribute to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

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Why is AMR such a major concern?

Antimicrobials are lifesaving medications, but only if they work against the organism causing infection. AMR may impact on life saving health care, such as cancer treatments or organ transplants, if antimicrobials are not able to be effective in preventing infections that are commonly associated with these procedures.

Antimicrobial resistance is already affecting the care of patients, and current trends indicate AMR will have an increasing impact over time.

The World Health Organization has described AMR as one of the greatest threats to human and animal health, as well as food and agriculture.

Why is the correct use of antimicrobials important?

Unlike many other medications, the development of antimicrobial resistance from the over use of antimicrobials can affect not only the patient needing treatment now, but also patients and the wider community into the future. Antimicrobial use inevitably leads to resistance, but overuse of antimicrobials has accelerated this process. Some antimicrobials are no longer able to be used to treat infections.

It is important to take antimicrobials as prescribed by doctors and not to pressure doctors for antimicrobials if they feel they won’t help your situation. Saving antimicrobial prescriptions for later or taking someone else’s can mean you aren’t getting the right antimicrobial, at the right dose, for your needs.

Can’t we just develop new, stronger antimicrobials?

The development of new antimicrobials is challenging, expensive, and takes a long time to deliver to market. Because of this, the number of new antimicrobials has been decreasing over time. However, appropriate use of antimicrobials is required, regardless of the supply.

What can be done now?

We must ensure that antimicrobials are only taken when they are absolutely needed, in the most appropriate way for the shortest period of time. It is an issue that demands action on every level, from individuals, governments and major organisations around the world. Without urgent action, infections and minor injuries could once again become fatal.

Access resources for Antimicrobial Awareness Week

The Commission provides a range of resources in support of AAW in Australia.

Key Messages for Antimicrobial Awareness Week

  • Antimicrobials are a precious resource, but their usefulness could be lost without appropriate use
  • Antimicrobial resistance is happening now – it is a worldwide problem that affects human and animal health.
  • Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria stop an antibiotic from working effectively – meaning some infections may become impossible to treat.
  • Few new antimicrobials are being developed to help support this challenge.
  • Misuse of antimicrobials contributes to antimicrobial resistance.
  • Whenever antimicrobials must be used, they must be used with care.

Join the conversation - follow the Commission on Twitter

Many clinicians and organisations participate in Twitter discussions during Antimicrobial Awareness Week to contribute to, and learn more about, the importance of safe and appropriate antimicrobial use in addressing the problem of antimicrobial resistance and improving patient care.

An annual global Twitter chat is coordinated by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC). To keep up to date on the global chat and on topics relevant to Antimicrobial Awareness Week, follow the Commission on Twitter: @ACSQHC.

Other useful Twitter accounts to follow include:

Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond

Australia's National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy - 2020 and Beyond sets a 20-year vision to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment through minimising the development and spread of AMR while continuing to have effective antimicrobials available.

AURA - Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia

The Commission's Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Australia (AURA) Surveillance System provides surveillance data and reports on antimicrobial use, appropriateness of use, and antimicrobial resistance to clinicians and policy makers to inform improved prescribing practice, and prevent and contain AMR.

Watch Professor John Turnidge from the AURA Team explain the causes and dangers of antimicrobial resistance, inappropriate antimicrobial usage, and the Commission's work to establish and support the AURA Surveillance System.

Antimicrobial Awareness Week Contact

Email: AAW@safetyandquality.gov.au