Antibiotic resistance is increasing globally and is regarded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the greatest threats to human health. According to WHO, close to one million people die every year from bacterial infections that cannot be treated with common antibiotics.
“Because we're not developing new antibiotics as quickly as the resistance is developing, we really need to make sure that we're conserving the antibiotics that we have and are using them appropriately, “says Kerrie.
“The work of an AMS pharmacist is really important, especially considering that Australia is one of the highest users of antibiotics in the developed world. Today we take antibiotics for granted, but it wasn’t all that long ago, before 1941 to be exact, that an infection from even a small cut to the skin could kill.
“Our role is to check that the hospital’s use of antibiotics is appropriate and not increasing the risk of developing antibiotic resistant strains which can then cause havoc with a patient’s recovery and treatment options, including chemotherapy treatment.
"We rely on effective antibiotics to prevent post-operative infections in patients undergoing surgery, and if access to effective antimicrobials were reduced, the risk of post-operative infections could increase significantly.
“It has even been predicted that by 2050, if we don’t act against the growing trends of microbial and antibiotic resistance, then more than 10 million people across the world could die every year because of antibiotic resistant infections, including from HIV and TB infections.”
Infection control and super bugs
Another important aspect to Kerrie’s role is to limit infections in hospitals caused by the dreaded ‘golden staph’ (Staphylococcus Aureus) and its antibiotic resistant ‘super bug’ strain MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).
“A lot of people think of antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance as just affecting an individual who becomes resistant to the antibiotic. But actually, what happens is that the bug or bacteria also has the ability to pass its antibiotic resistance gene to other bacteria. So, there is the added risk that the individual can transfer those resistant genes and resistant bugs to other people around them, including in the hospital setting, and to the community in general.
“This is why it is so important to take antibiotics only when they are needed and to take them as prescribed by a health professional. If antibiotics are used when they’re not needed, or used incorrectly, they can contribute to the development of drug resistant bacteria.”