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Continuing advancements to curb antimicrobial resistance

As we begin World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, the Australian Government continues to push forward the essential work required to protect Australians from antimicrobial resistant disease.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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As we begin World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, the Morrison Government continues to push forward the essential work required to protect Australians from antimicrobial resistant disease.

Each year, approximately 290 Australians die as a result of infection with some form of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said that while COVID-19 has been a large part of Australia’s national health conversation in recent years, the Government continues to actively monitor the threat of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes becoming resistant to antimicrobial treatment— known as antimicrobial resistance or AMR.

“AMR is an issue of increasing concern not just in Australia, but around the world,” Minister Hunt said.

“The Australian Government has already committed $22.5 million to understand and fight AMR, preventing the outbreak of resistant superbugs, and evaluating the use of antimicrobial, antibiotic and antifungal medicines in human and animal health.

“Over the coming 3 years, we are investing more than $14.2 million in surveillance of   antimicrobial resistance in human health in Australia, which will ensure we detect any emerging threats from AMR microbes, mainly bacteria, as early as possible.

“We will also gauge the prescription and usage of antimicrobial treatments across the country to help ensure that they are being used appropriately, and not in a way which may fuel the evolution of AMR superbugs.”

Australians are high users of antibiotics, with half of Australians obtaining one or more courses of antibiotics on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme each year.

As well as human health, AMR is a major issue for animal health, agriculture, food safety and the environment. It needs to be targeted through a holistic and multisectoral approach – referred to as One Health – as it recognises the interconnectedness between all these sectors.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, said that the interconnectedness between the health of people, animals, and the environment highlights the need to tackle the challenges of AMR across all sectors.

“Antimicrobials enter the environment every day and can accumulate over time, leading to either harmful effects or increases in AMR,” Minister Ley said.

“One priority of the One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, of which I am a member, is better understanding of environmental pathways to the development and transmission of AMR.

Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2020 & Beyond reflects the commitment from the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to address the threat that AMR poses across different sectors, including Australia’s unique and diverse environment.

“Our government continues to work to bring together a One Health antimicrobial resistance surveillance system to provide a holistic view of AMR, including human health, animal health, agriculture, food and the environment.”

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud, said animal health and welfare were important issues to keep in mind when thinking about AMR.

“The world’s population is growing, and with that comes an increased demand for high-quality animal protein, such as milk and eggs,” Minister Littleproud said.

“Antimicrobial agents can support food safety and global food security, but must be used appropriately and only when necessary, to ensure they remain effective, protecting Australia’s livestock and all Australians.”

“We know all too well after the past 2 years, that animal disease can become a risk to human health, and contributing to the emergence of AMR bacteria in animals, including our livestock is a risk right around the world.”

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is marked from 18–24 November to draw attention to this growing threat posed by AMR. It is organised by the AMR Tripartite organisations - the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

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