Media Release - NSLHD


November 14, 2016


A special team of "resistance fighters" in the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD) has seen the use of some common antibiotics drop dramatically.

With antibiotic resistance now recognised as a major world health threat, the team has been charged with cutting antibiotic use where possible in order to reduce threats to the wonder drugs' effectiveness.


​Dr Mel Figtree, who heads the NSLHD's Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, said the risks of excessive and unnecessary antibiotic use were enormous.

She said the World Health Organisation had highlighted antibiotic resistance to be one of the greatest threats to human health now and in the coming decades.

"Globally this is a huge problem with high rates of death from multi-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, and common bacterial infections causing pneumonia, urinary tract and gastrointestinal infections," Dr Figtree said.

"Resistant bacteria causing these infections can spread from person to person and ultimately to the community thereby increasing risk of resistance to the general public.

"Locally, we are seeing more resistance in bacteria normally found in the bowel that cause diseases such as urinary tract infection and abdominal infections."

Dr Figtree said the NSLHD resistance fighting team, comprising an infectious diseases physician and five specialist pharmacists, was established three years ago to ensure patient safety by optimising antimicrobial choice, dose, and duration. It had also increased in-hospital education for doctors, pharmacists, nurses and patients, and maintained surveillance of antibiotic usage.

"Significant reduction in broad-spectrum antimicrobials (which are more likely to contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance) has been achieved," Dr Figtree said.

"The use of the common antibiotic ceftriaxone, often used to treat chest and urinary tract infections, is down by around 40 per cent, while penicillin use has increased proportionally. This is a positive outcome because penicillin causes fewer adverse effects, such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and less risk of development of resistant organisms.

"The use of meropenem, an even broader spectrum antibiotic, has been reduced by 20 per cent.

"The more an antibiotic is used, the greater chance bacteria have to become resistant. If we do not use antibiotics wisely we are putting the individual patient at risk as well as future generations. We cannot afford to burn our bridges - we need to be responsible using antibiotics. The community needs to be aware that antibiotics are ineffective against the common cold (a virus) and will not alter the course of illness."

Royal North Shore Hospital excelled in the most recent National Safety and Quality Health Care Standards Accreditation Survey in 2015, being ranked in the top five per cent of hospitals nationally for antimicrobial stewardship.

"Antimicrobial" refers to any substance including antibiotics that kills or inhibits the growth of micro-organisms. Antibiotics specifically target bacteria.


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