Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Today kicks off World Antimicrobial Awareness Week; a global initiative designed to help stop further spread of antibiotic resistance.

With the theme “Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance” this year WAAW reiterates that everyone has a role to play to preserve the power of antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to human and animal health, with a UK Government report estimating that by 2050, ten million people will die every year because of AMR if it is not reduced.

Dr Naomi Runnegar, Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist at Princess Alexandra Hospital and Co-Chair of the Statewide Infection Clinical Network said the more antibiotics were prescribed and used, the greater the chance of antibiotic resistant bacteria causing infections. “Antibiotic resistant bacteria are much more difficult to treat which leaves us with fewer treatment options,” she said.

Dr Runnegar said fortunately in Australia, antibiotic use was being monitored to enable governments to make informed decisions about where to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, and all Queensland hospitals had antimicrobial stewardship programs in place.

“Within Queensland, the Statewide Infection Clinical Network – among other initiatives – has started a project focusing on AMR in patients with chronic recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).”

“Patients identified at high risk of recurrent UTIs will be targeted with education on preventative measures.”

She said patients considered at high risk included older people above the age of 65, women (due to anatomical reasons such as shorter urethra and post-menopausal factors), men with enlarged prostate as the bladder doesn’t empty properly, younger children, and sexually active women (again - due to anatomical reasons - it’s easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder).

Dr Runnegar said clinicians were encouraged to discuss preventative measures with patients at high risk, including:

  • drinking plenty of fluids to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract before infection can start
  • managing conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease which can interfere with the immune system
  • exercising good personal hygiene which for women includes wiping from front to back when toileting and going to the toilet as soon as possible after sexual intercourse to flush out any bacteria
  • passing urine when they feel the urge rather than holding on for long periods of time
  • for men experiencing any bladder emptying problems, they should see their local healthcare provider as bacteria can build up in the bladder from delayed emptying.

Medical devices such as urinary catheters also need to be removed as early as clinically indicated and need to be looked after properly. Healthcare professionals are also encouraged to wait for midstream urine results before prescribing antibiotics.

To increase awareness of AMR and antimicrobial stewardship, the Queensland Statewide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program has put together a program of events for World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Of note is their AMS in Rural and Remote Settings education session scheduled for Tuesday 23 November. For more information visit their website (QHEPS: internal access only).

And remember - antibiotics should be handled with care. Let’s work together to preserve their power and save lives now and into the future.

Last updated: 23 November 2021