In light of a paper released by the Office of the Chief Scientist today, NPS MedicineWise is calling on every Australian to do their part in the fight against antibiotic resistance in our community.

The new paper calls on the health, pharmaceutical, science and agricultural industries, as well as the community at large to build a new and coordinated frontline defense against the genuine threat of returning to an era where even minor infections could cause death.

Echoing this call to action, Dr Philippa Binns, Clinical Advisor at NPS MedicineWise says that every one of us has a role to play in preserving the miracle of antibiotics.

"The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to human health and today this report from the Office of the Chief Scientist brings the same message home to Australia," says Dr Binns.

"With around 19 million prescriptions written in Australia every year, we are amongst some of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world. And every time we take antibiotics when we don't need them, or we take them incorrectly, we contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread in the community," says Dr Binns.

"Whilst most Australians are aware that antibiotic resistance poses a significant threat to public health, relatively few of us understand how our behavior - our misuse and overuse of antibiotics - contributes to the problem."

Dr Binns said that in a 2012 survey of 1000 people, just 43% realised they should not take antibiotics to kill viruses (e.g. the cold or flu viruses), and one in five expect to be prescribed an antibiotic when they visit the GP with a cold or flu.

"Antibiotic resistance is complex problem and will require creative and collaborative solutions. But it's clear that we all need to rethink the way we use antibiotics or we risk losing one of the most important advances in modern medicine less than 100 years since its discovery.

Dr Binns says that learning how to use antibiotics appropriately is particularly important at a time when many people are fighting off a cold or flu. She says there are three simple steps to ensure these life-saving medicines will work for us in the future.

  1. Know that antibiotics are only effective for treating bacteria and not viruses, like colds and flu.
  2. When you need antibiotics take them exactly as prescribed: at the right times, in the right amount, and for as long as your doctor tells you to.
  3. Spread knowledge, not infections. Always practice good hygiene, and encourage those around you to be antibiotic resistance fighters too.

For further information, please visit NPS MedicineWise's campaign