Australia must get wise about antibiotics to reduce the spread of superbugs Antibiotic Awareness Week: 12-18 November

More than 2 in 3 Australians know bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics — but many don’t know what to do about it.

Research released today by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP, reveals many people aren’t aware that taking antibiotics incorrectly or inappropriately accelerates the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria throughout the community.

Chair of NPS MedicineWise, Dr Janette Randall, said the survey results* indicate that people understand more about the problem but don’t know how to be part of the solution.

“The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to human health today. But Australians are yet to understand how to change their own behaviour to reduce the spread of resistant bacteria in the community,” said Dr Randall.

“Individuals are twice as likely to develop bacterial resistance after taking a course of antibiotics and once we carry these resistant bacteria, we can pass them on to others. 

“With around 19 million prescriptions written in Australia every year, we are amongst some of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world. And every time we use antibiotics incorrectly, we contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can spread quickly.”

According to Dr Randall, the world must act now to change the way we use these medicines or risk losing one of the most important advances in modern medicine less than 100 years since its discovery.

Today, Minister Plibersek launched a short film by NPS MedicineWise highlighting the global risk of superbugs and the simple ways each of us can preserve the miracle of antibiotics.

During Antibiotic Awareness Week, NPS MedicineWise is calling on everyone to rethink their antibiotic use and take simple steps to ensure these life-saving medicines will work for us in the future:

  1. Know that antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacteria and not viruses, like colds and flu.
  2. When you need antibiotics, take the right amount, at the right times and complete the full course.
  3. Spread knowledge, not infections. Always practice good hygiene, talk to your health professional about antibiotic resistance, and encourage those around you to be antibiotic resistance fighters too.

Antibiotic Awareness Week is supported bythe Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, the Australian Society for Antimicrobials, the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care, and by NPS MedicineWise as part of a 5-year campaign to address antibiotic resistance. 

Resources, tools and information about the week is available at
Become an antibiotic resistance fighter at
Watch the new film featuring Dr John D’Arcy at

*Survey of 1,019 people by Research Now for NPS MedicineWise in June 2012


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.