Antimicrobial resistance

Microorganisms are becoming more resilient. What can we do to protect ourselves from infection and injury?

Still curious? Read more: Fighting back: antimicrobial resistance

Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. —World Health Organization

What is AMR?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is when micro-organisms—bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites—resist drugs that used to be effective at treating them.

Why does it matter?

Micro-organisms are becoming stronger and more resilient, and replacement antimicrobials are rare. Many of today's medical treatments—all of which rely on antibiotics to control infection—may become impossible.

Who does it affect?

AMR affects people, animals and agriculture. It's present in all parts of the world and can affect any person, of any age or fitness level, in any country.

When will it happen?

It's happening now. Deaths from AMR in Europe during 2014 were estimated at 25,000, and in the US at 23,000. By 2050, AMR could be responsible for 10 million deaths per year and $100 trillion in lost output.

In Australia

  • Of the 700 tonnes of antibiotics imported each year, nearly 80% is used to boost agricultural production and treat sick animals.
  • Of the 22 million prescriptions for human antibiotics written every year, up to 50% are unnecessary.

What is being done?

The World Health Organization is helping countries to fight AMR by:

  • collecting data
  • ensuring correct usage
  • supporting research
  • advising and educating

AMR is a big challenge, but many Australian scientists are looking for solutions. The Government's Antimicrobial Resistance Standing Committee brings experts together to provide advice and recommend action.

What can you do?

  • Get vaccinated, and keep vaccinations up to date
  • Only take antimicrobial drugs when necessary
  • Complete the full course of treatment and don't share medications
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people to prevent transmission
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap, not antibacterial handwash