For the past year FoE have been calling for a Senate Inquiry into how the growing use of antimicrobials such as nano silver in consumer products is exacerbating the problem of anti-microbial resistance. And on the last sitting day of parliament our wish came true! On the 29th November the Australian Senate passed a motion for a Senate Inquiry to investigate progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 1999 Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR). Public submissions close on 17th February.

JETACAR was a committee of health and agriculture experts established by the Federal Government in 1999 in response to the growing concerns around antimicrobial resistance. The terms of reference for the committee were broadly to review the scientific evidence on the link between the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, the emergence and selection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and their spread to humans; and to develop evidence-based recommendations for the appropriate future management of antibiotic use in food-producing animals.

The JETACAR report – The Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Animals and Humans contained a broad set of recommendations aimed at reducing the incidence of AMR in Australia. It covered both the use of antibiotics in humans and in animals.

So what’s happened since then?

In response to the report’s recommendations, a number of interdepartmental committees were established and pilot surveillance programs set up but this effort was not sustained. The problem of antimicrobial resistance is worse than ever with experts warning of dire public health consequences.

Australians are amongst the highest users of antibiotics in the world, with over 22 million prescriptions issued every year – more than one for each man, woman and child. Furthermore, there is evidence that the growing use of consumer goods containing antimicrobials such as triclosan and nano-silver will further drive the spread of mobile genetic elements conferring antibiotic resistance.

Senate Inquiry – submissions are open

Proposed by Victorian Greens Senator Dr Richard Di Natale on the last sitting day of Parliament in 2012, the Australian Senate passed the motion for a Senate inquiry to investigate why so few of the JETACAR recommendations have been implemented and how to better manage antimicrobial resistance in the future.

Reason for Hope

The good news is that proper regulation of antimicrobials can make a positive impact on antimicrobial resistance. We only need look at how the restricted use of quinolones in both humans and animals in Australia has maintained low levels of resistance, compared to elsewhere around the world.

Time to Act

Of course it’s not Australia’s problem alone, nor is our government solely responsible for the problem. But with so much at stake, surely it’s worth raising your voice on this important issue.