Three ways to protect yourself from a ‘superbug plague’

As reports that antibiotic-resistant infections pose an increasing threat to the Australian community make headlines today, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that they can take simple steps to protect themselves against superbugs in the community.

An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia warns of a looming new plague of superbugs as more and more people with community-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections are presenting to GPs and hospitals around the country.

Today, NPS MedicineWise CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes, affirmed the article’s call for a comprehensive national action plan to fight antimicrobial resistance in Australia, but says people should remember they too have an important role to play to preserve the miracle of antibiotics.

“Antibiotic resistance is a multifaceted problem; there’s no doubt we need a coordinated, cross-sector approach to curb the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both human health and agriculture,” says Dr Weekes.

“But as we see more cases of antibiotic-resistant infection within the community, we mustn’t forget the important ways that ordinary Australians can join the fight against antibiotic resistance.

“The idea of a ‘super plague’ is ominous, but everyone can do a few simple things to help protect themselves and their community against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

  1. Only take antibiotics when they are needed. Know that antibiotics are only effective in the treatment of bacteria and not viruses, like colds and flu.
  2. When prescribed antibiotics, take them exactly as directed by your health professional – at the recommended dose, time intervals and length of course as directed.
  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.

Recent research from NPS MedicineWise found that while Australians are not ignorant to the problem of antibiotic-resistance many still don’t know that they can be part of the solution.

One in five Australians still expect to receive antibiotics when they visit their GP with a cough or cold. This number jumps to 76% in people with an ear, nose, throat of chest infection, with more than half saying that they would ask their GP for a script.

“Even where our health professionals understand best practice and the prescribing guidelines for antibiotics, these patient expectations place considerable pressure on GPs to provide antibiotics when they may not be needed,” says Dr Weekes.

“When only 1 in 3 people know that colds and most coughs are caused by viruses, and less than half realise that antibiotics do not kill viruses, it’s not surprising that Australia has one of the highest rates of antibiotic use in the world.

“The more we encourage people to learn about antibiotic and take a part in the fight against superbugs, the more likely we are to see a reduction in antibiotic prescribing rates and more people taking these medicines correctly.”

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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.

Media enquiries: Stephanie Childs on 02 8217 8667, 0419 618 365 or Erin Jardine on (02) 8217 8733 or