Antibiotic prescriptions for coughs and colds increasing superbug threat, report finds.

Thousands of unnecessary prescriptions are being written for Australians with coughs and colds, adding to the growing threat of superbugs, a new report shows.

Professor John Turnidge, senior medical advisor from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQH), said the report revealed the very high rates of prescribing in the Australian community.

“More than 50 per cent of people with colds and other upper respiratory tract infections were prescribed antimicrobials when not recommended by guidelines,” he said.

The ACSQH report revealed in 2014, almost half of all Australians were prescribed antimicrobial therapy. Penicillin was the most common.

We have to convince both the GP and the patient that an antibiotic is not required,” Professor Turnidge said.

He said patients needed to be educated that the vast majority of infections in the community were viral, not bacterial, and did not require any antibiotics.

The new report is the most comprehensive picture of antimicrobial resistance and appropriateness of prescribing in Australia.

It looks at emerging trends of superbugs, and raised particular concerns about level of e-coli and VRE (vancomycin resistant organisms).

VRE can occur in very ill patients, those with IV drips, and those patients having complex intra-abdominal surgery, Professor Turnidge said.

“It’s at astronomical levels and has a significant impact on patients and hospitals,” he said.
Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria change to protect themselves from the effects of antimicrobials.


The World Health Organisation called it an “increasingly serious threat to global public health”.

The report found many Australian patients with acute tonsillitis, sinusitis, middle ear infection or acute bronchitis received antimicrobial therapy but “this should be the exception for this, not routine therapy”.

Professor Turnidge said the overuse of antibiotics could explain the rise of golden staph in the community.

“Whenever you take a course of antibiotics, you create a little vacuum for the resistant bugs to be picked up,” he said.

That makes people more susceptible to pick up golden staph if someone they come into contact with has it.

The report also flagged concerns that patients were given the “wrong antimicrobial, for the wrong duration”.

“Many repeat scripts were written when they were not needed,” the report said.

This post originally appeared on ABC.



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