Australia's overuse of antibiotics prompts rising superbug threatStaff writer ▼ | June 17, 2016
Australia needs to crack down on inappropriate antibiotic use or face a growing threat from superbugs, a national report has found.
Health Down Under Going back to the dark days of medicine
The report also found that one third of hospital patients were given antibiotics every day but half of those medications either violated hospital guidelines or were inappropriate prescriptions.
Increased antibiotic prescription rates have led to organisms having a greater antimicrobial resistance whereby bacteria are able to stop antibiotics from working effectively. This has led to the term "superbug."
Professor John Turnidge, a senior medical adviser to the commission, said Australia faces a growing threat from superbugs and that antibiotics could be rendered useless if microbial resistance is allowed to continue to grow.
"We should all be very concerned. We are already seeing superbugs in the community... and outbreaks in hospital wards, where the amount of time and energy just to save those people's lives is huge," Turnidge told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
"What we forget is we can't even do modern medicine without antibiotics. Many treatments for cancer patients and neonates and all of those kinds of things depend on antibiotics working."
"None of us want to go back to the dark days of medicine. It's easy to turn our back on it, but if we don't address antibiotic use we will end up back there and people will be dying who otherwise could be saved."
The survey found that Australia is the sixth largest user of antibiotics outside hospitals compared to 28 European countries.
Dr Lynn Weeks, the CEO of NPS MedicineWise, an organization focused on educating the public about the use of medicine, said the report should be eye-opening for medical professionals and the general public.
"This data is crucial in helping health professionals, policymakers and consumers alike to understand that they each play a part in making sure these life-saving medicines continue to work both now and in the future," Weeks told Fairfax on Thursday.
An 18-month British review concluded in May found that superbugs will kill 10 million people every year by 2050.
Australian health authorities currently diagnose approximately 500 cases of superbugs each year. ■