Antimicrobial resistance and human health

Tracking, tracing and tackling antibiotic-resistant bacteria in healthcare

Globally, AMR claims 700,000 lives a year

In hospitals and even our community, antibiotic-resistant microbes such as E. coli, MSRA (golden staph), CPE (Carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae) and VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococci) threaten people with debilitating infections that can start in the urinary tract, surgical sites, organs such as the kidney, bladder, or lungs and bloodstream.

Already, through the rise of antimicrobial resistance, these infections are becoming more difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. They are causing longer hospital stays, further health complications and death.

The fact is that antimicrobial resistance is already affecting our healthcare system and our people, costing us millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives globally every year.

And, if AMR remains uncontrolled, this problem will only get worse.

How we use antibiotics has contributed to the problem

When Alexander Fleming first discovered penicillin in 1928, now the most widely used antibiotics in the world, he warned that microbes could develop a resistance to penicillin.[1]

Fleming was right.

We’ve already started to see microbes develop resistance to various antimicrobials. Though natural resistance over time plays a part, the way we use antibiotics has accelerated this resistance.


In 2017, 23.5% of prescriptions in Australian hospitals were found to be inappropriate.[2]

According to AURA, the three most common reasons for inappropriate prescribing were:

  1. The illness did not need antibiotics
  2. The antimicrobials used were broad-spectrum when narrow-spectrum would have worked
  3. The dose was incorrect.

The weight of AMR on Australia’s healthcare system


  • More than 73,000 people are hospitalised each year for kidney and urinary tract infections[3]
  • Australian hospitals spend more than $11 million a year treating infections from just two major drug-resistant germs, CRE and MRSA[4]
  • Sepsis infects more than 18,000 Australians each year, of those around 5,000 will die. Of those who survive, half will be left with an impairment or disability[5]
  • To treat sepsis, Australian Intensive Care Units spend around $848 million each year and the full economic impact could be as high as $1.5 billion [6]

How can OUTBREAK help to combat AMR in healthcare?

AMR is most often present in the health system, but antibiotic use in animals, as well as AMR in the environment, all play a role.

With a One Health approach, OUTBREAK will allow us to intervene in the agriculture sector or environment to prevent the issue from reaching people and the health system.

OUTBREAK is collating existing data on antimicrobial use and resistance in communities, hospitals and nursing homes in Australia as well generating new data.

With this data, OUTBREAK will help us to:

  • better understand antimicrobial use in Australia
  • detect early signs of AMR outbreaks and when new strains of AMR bacteria emerge
  • identify where current antibiotics are ineffective
  • identify where the risk of AMR transmission is high
  • improve antibiotic therapy choices in aged care homes and hospitals with geospatial (locational) and demographic insights
  • determine where and when to spend the limited healthcare budget for maximum impact
  • reduce the number of infections requiring hospitalisation
  • reduce the number of deaths related to antibiotic-resistant infections.

OUTBREAK does not replace the need to develop alternatives to antibiotics, such as vaccines. But, it can extend the life of new and existing medicines, inform research and development of new products and services, and support the evaluation of public health policies.

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