Antimicrobials, Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Stewardship
Antimicrobials are medicines used to prevent and treat infections caused by microorganisms in humans, animals and plants.
Depending on the type of organism that the antimicrobial treats, it will also have a different, more specific name. For example:
- ‘Antibiotics’ (also known as antibacterials) prevent or treat infections caused by bacteria, such as cellulitis, urinary tract infections (UTI), tuberculosis (TB) or Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhoea
- ‘Antivirals’ prevent or treat infections caused by viruses, such as colds, flu, chickenpox/shingles or HIV.
- ‘Antifungals’ prevent or treat infections caused by fungi, such as thrush, ring worm and athlete’s foot.
- ‘Antiparasitics’ prevent or treat infections caused by parasites, such as malaria, threadworm and headlice
An antimicrobial drug that works against one type of organism does not work against any of the other types. For example, antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but are ineffective against all viruses, fungi and parasites.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines previously used to treat them. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others. AMR makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
It is important to be aware that bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics spread easily from person to person and that healthy people can carry antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Antimicrobial stewardship is a coordinated approach to ensure appropriate use of antimicrobials, improve patient outcomes, reduce microbial resistance, and decrease the spread of infections caused by resistant organisms.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.