November 18–24 is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), and this year Clinical Excellence Queensland is challenging clinicians to consider their role in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Dr Helen Brown, Deputy Director-General Clinical Excellence Queensland, said antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was a threat to humans, animals, plants, and the environment. “AMR affects us all. To curb it effectively, we must join forces and encourage the prudent use of antimicrobials, as well strengthening infection prevention and control in our facilities,” she said.
Antimicrobials are agents used to prevent, control, and treat infectious diseases in humans, animals and plants, but they are becoming increasingly ineffective. “AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites no longer respond to antimicrobial agents. As a result of drug resistance, infections become difficult or impossible to treat, increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness, and death,” Dr Brown said.
The Antimicrobial Awareness Week tagline is: 'Antimicrobials: Handle with Care' which Dr Brown said served as a timely reminder. “AMR is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development. In 2019, 1.3 million deaths across the world were directly attributed to bacterial AMR,” she said. “If left unchecked, in the next decade AMR could push 24 million more people into poverty. Because the development of new antibiotics can take 10-15 years and cost more than one billion [US] dollars, we need to handle antimicrobials with care now,” she said.
Dr Brown said the Queensland Infection Clinical Network (QICN) – now in its second year – and the Queensland Statewide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (QSAMSP) were both providing expert clinical advice and support to Queensland Health clinicians regarding appropriate antibiotic use. “Having statewide expert leadership and guidance is integral to having a consistent approach to AMR,” she said.
QSAMSP Team at Bamaga Hospital, Far North Queensland, earlier this year
The QICN has a dedicated antimicrobials working group and QSAMSP continues to run education sessions and their hotline, and also recently launched their own podcast.
Co-chair, Statewide Infection Clinical Network and Infectious Diseases Physician and Clinical Microbiologist for Metro South Health, Dr Naomi Runnegar said there were many things clinicians could do to protect patients from infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant pathogens “Be mindful of the risk of new multi-resistant organisms being introduced by patients who have had recent healthcare overseas, as early detection will prevent transmission,” she said.
“Always follow infection prevention and control guidelines for preventing spread of organisms between patients - for example hand hygiene, transmission-based precautions, and maintaining a clean hospital environment; and of course, use antimicrobials judiciously.
“Infection prevention and control teams, the microbiology laboratory, antimicrobial stewardship pharmacists, and infectious diseases teams are here to support clinicians in these important components of patient care,” Dr Runnegar said.
Dr Naomi Runnegar
Dr Sarah Boyd, A/Director Queensland Statewide AMS Program said they provided a wide range of support and advice on antibiotics, infection, and antimicrobial stewardship to hospitals in rural and regional areas. “The QSAMSP comprises a multidisciplinary team consisting of infectious diseases physicians, antimicrobial stewardship pharmacists, nursing and program officers. We support rural and regional areas to optimise antimicrobial management, minimise adverse events and reduce antimicrobial resistance,” Dr Boyd said.
“Key elements of our program include timely access to expert advice on the management of infections, regular antimicrobial stewardship ward rounds, a comprehensive educational program and research activities to advance and inform clinical practice and preserve antibiotics for our future generations,” she said.
To help raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance and stewardship, visit the WAAW 2022 campaign website. For more information about QSAMSP, visit their page on the Queensland Health intranet (internal access only). For more information about QICN, visit the Queensland Infection Clinical Network page.