Friends of the Earth have called for the Federal Government to urgently implement the recommendations of a Senate Inquiry into the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance released late last week. The inquiry recommended the establishment of an independent body – or national centre – to manage the response to antimicrobial resistance in Australia.
Louise Sales, Nanotechnology Project Coordinator with Friends of the Earth says “More than 7000 Australians die each year from superbugs – that’s four times our annual road toll. The government needs to take urgent action to tackle this growing public health crisis.
“The overuse of antimicrobials by Australians is contributing to a crisis that the World Health Organisation has labelled ‘one of the greatest threats to human health today’.
“In 1999 the Government’s Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR) made a broad set of recommendations aimed at reducing the incidence of AMR in Australia. However, successive Governments have ignored most of these recommendations and the problem of antimicrobial resistance is now worse than ever. The Committee recommendations follow a UNSW study, published last month, which found that overexposure to silver nanoparticles can cause potentially harmful bacteria to rapidly adapt and flourish.
“This is the first study that has demonstrated that a widely occurring bacteria can adapt quite rapidly to the antimicrobial action of nano-silver. It raises serious concerns that the widespread use of nano-silver in consumer products could be helping to breed superbugs,” said Ms Sales.
“The medical community has been turning to nano-silver as an antimicrobial of last resort to prevent the infections of superbugs. But at the same time, many companies have seen a marketing advantage in including nano-silver as an ingredient in everyday products such as socks, underpants and toothbrushes.
“Health experts agree the widespread use of nano-silver in consumer products such as socks and fridges will further increase the problem of superbugs. We should restrict the use of this powerful antimicrobial to hospitals, where it’s needed most.”
In response to the Inquiry, a broad coalition of organisations have launched a statement calling for urgent action to tackle the looming antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis. The statement, endorsed by the Public Health Association of Australia, Friends of the Earth, The Australia Institute and the National Toxics Network calls for a range of measures including restricting the use of nano-silver to clinical settings.