The world is facing a growing resistance to antibiotics that is an immediate health threat, according to the World Health Organisation.
Australian National University Microbiology professor Peter Collignon said recent research revealed antimicrobial resistance (AMR) had become a severe problem in Australia.
“Antimicrobial resistance causes people to die,” he said.
“If you don’t have an effective antibiotic to treat somebody with a serious infection, you can have two or three times the rate of infection than if you have an antibiotic that works.”
The federal government has committed a $9.4 million from the 2016/17 federal health budget to go towards further development of the AURA Surveillance Health System, a campaign to raise awareness of AMR resistance and creating the One Health consumer website.
Health Minister Sussan Ley said prescription rates of antibiotics was the key driver for resistance.
“A particular focus will be Australia’s high use of antibiotics in general practice, which is 20 per cent above the OECD average,” she said.
AMR could see as many of 10 million people lose their lives by 2050 and cost up to $100 trillion in economic output, a UK study found.
“This is a real threat, it’s a close threat,” Ms Ley said.
“We have multiple drug resistant strains of both tuberculosis and malaria, effectively on our doorstep.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has found widespread antibiotic prescription across the country is a growing trend.
“The use of antibiotics is on a high, is on an increase and is at a problematic level,” the AMA’s Dr Tony Bartone said.
“We need to be very sure when we prescribe antibiotics that they are necessary.”
The newly-released national plan takes a cross-industry approach, including the agricultural industry , which uses antibiotics on livestock.
Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce said AMR was a serious priority, but the country’s approach to antibiotic use in farming as “conservative” on the global scale.
“Resistance to antimicrobials is such an urgent global health priority that the World Health Organisation describes it as a looming crisis in which common and treatable infections are becoming life threatening,” Mr Joyce said.
“Antimicrobials have a variety of uses in agriculture and are regarded as important for animal health, welfare, biosecurity and production.”