Antibiotic resistant infections: the facts

9 April 2014

With news today that Ian Thorpe is in hospital with a serious infection following surgery, NPS MedicineWise is extending its best wishes to the swimming champion for a speedy recovery.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that antibiotic resistant infections can happen to anyone, even if they are otherwise fit and healthy.

“If the infection is confirmed as being resistant to treatment with antibiotics, then it may last for longer and there may be a higher risk of complications from the infection,” says Dr Weekes.

“Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change to protect themselves from an antibiotic, and are then no longer sensitive to that antibiotic.

“When this happens, antibiotics that previously would have killed the bacteria, or stopped them from multiplying, no longer work.”

The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to human health today — but there are simple things everyone can do to play their part in stopping its spread.

“The spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is largely caused by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics — when we as a community use antibiotics when they’re not needed, such as for viruses like colds and flu, or don’t take them as directed,” says Dr Weekes.

“This creates a situation in which antibiotic resistant bugs can flourish.

“The development of antibiotics was one of the most important advances of medicine but now, because of antibiotic overuse and misuse, bacterial infections that were once easily cured with antibiotics are becoming harder to treat. Some bacteria, known as ‘superbugs’, are already resistant to several different antibiotics.”

NPS MedicineWise is currently undertaking a five-year campaign to help Australians understand that there are simple steps they can take to prevent antibiotic resistance, including:

  • Not expecting antibiotics for colds and the flu as they have no effect on viruses.
  • Taking antibiotics as directed if they are prescribed.
  • Practising good hygiene to help stop the spread of infection.

To find out more about how you can help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance, and to take the pledge to join the fight against antibiotic resistance, go to


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