Antibiotic resistance is a serious worldwide problem, and it’s happening in Australia. The World Health Organization has warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health today.
Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic. Bacteria become resistant when their genes mutate after being in contact with an antibiotic. These changes allow the bacteria to survive or ‘resist’ the antibiotic, so that the antibiotic no longer works to kill the bacteria or stop them from multiplying.
Unfortunately, bacteria can also develop antibiotic resistance through contact with other bacteria. Resistant bacteria can pass their genes to other bacteria, forming a new antibiotic-resistant ‘strain’ of the bacteria.
The more antibiotics are used, the more chances bacteria have to become resistant to them. As more antibiotics stop working against bacterial infections, doctors will have fewer antibiotics to use. Many common infections may eventually become untreatable with medicines. Using antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean that they won’t work for you when you do need them in the future.
If you have an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection: - you will have the infection for longer - you may be more likely to have complications of the infection - you could remain infectious for longer, and pass your infection to other people, which increases the problem.
Australia has one of the highest rates of antibiotic consumption in the developed world, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance. There are five things you can pledge to do to reduce antibiotic resistance:
- I will not ask for antibiotics for colds and the flu as they have no effect on viruses.
- I understand that antibiotics will not help me to recover faster from a viral infection.
- I will only take antibiotics in the way they have been prescribed.
- I understand that it is possible to pass on antibiotic-resistant bacteria to others.
- I will make a greater effort to prevent the spread of germs by practising good hygiene