Preserving antibiotics for future generations

News article

17 November 2023

Antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, are one of medicine’s most precious resources, but increasing antimicrobial resistance means these medicines are becoming less effective over time. 

This week (November 18-24) is World Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Awareness Week, with the theme of preventing antimicrobial resistance together. This is a chance for us all, from prescribers to patients, to check in on our use of antibiotic medicines. 

Many potentially deadly infections are treatable with antibiotics, and they are very effective against common problems like urinary tract, skin and chest infections. However, AMR is a growing problem both here in New Zealand and around the world. As more and more bacteria develop resistance against antibiotics, infections like these become harder to treat, and can once again become a serious threat. 

Antibiotics are used in a wide range of settings – from veterinary care through to prescriptions from your general practice or hospital specialist – and their wise use is one of the best methods available to us to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations. 

This is a crucial space where everyone, from prescribers to patients, can take an active role. 

For prescribers, that means ensuring antibiotics are only used in cases where they will be effective – not for viral infections like colds or the flu. 

For patients, you can access advice from Healthline and community pharmacies if you have symptoms of an infection, as well as from your general practice. If they diagnose a viral infection, antibiotics will not be effective, and you may be advised to simply rest at home. If it is felt that your infection is caused by bacteria and you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to complete the whole course even if you start feeling better, as stopping early can lead to more resistance. 

A step you can take right now is checking your medicine cabinet for any leftover antibiotics you may have, and taking them to your local pharmacy for safe disposal. 

To learn more about AMR and what you can do to keep antimicrobials working, visit: Antimicrobial resistance.

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