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 Australia, The Australia Institute and the National Toxics Network has been released to coincide with the current Senate Inquiry into antimicrobial resistance.

More than 7000 Australians die each year from multi-drug resistant bacteria –or superbugs – a figure four times our annual road toll. The groups are demanding urgent action to tackle this growing public health crisis. The groups are calling for a raft of measures, including tighter controls on the use of antibiotics in human medicine and animal husbandry and restricting the use of triclosan and nano-silver to clinical applications.

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.

Some antibiotics are critically important for human health. If resistance develops to these there is only limited or no therapy available to treat serious and life threatening infections in people.

The National Prescribing Service has warned that by 2030:

  • we may not have effective treatments for common illnesses, such as tonsillitis and more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia;
  • and life-saving surgeries, such as bowel surgeries, appendix removal and organ transplants, may no longer be able to be performed safely.

Louise Sales, FoE’s Nanotechnology Project Coordinator, said “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.”

Read FoE’s submission to the Senate Inquiry