Antimicrobials can speed up your recovery if you have an infection and can save your life if you have a serious infection. However, overuse of antimicrobials can lead to antimicrobial resistance – infections with bugs that cannot be treated effectively with antimicrobials.
Antimicrobial stewardship is about avoiding unnecessary use of antimicrobials and making sure that whenever an antimicrobial is used, it is used with care to minimise the risk of antimicrobial resistance.
Consumers, doctors, nurse and pharmacists are important in antimicrobial stewardship.
View the Infographic – Antimicrobial-stewardship (PDF, 90.44 KB)
What are infections?
Infections are illnesses caused by bacteria, virus, fungi or parasites.
As we get older our chances of getting an infection increases.
What are antimicrobials?
Antimicrobials are medications to treat or prevent infections.
- antibiotics which are active against bacteria (for example amoxicillin, cefalexin)
- antivirals which are active against viruses (for example aciclovir)
- antifungals which are active against fungi (for example topical clotrimazole)
- antiparasitics which are active against parasites.
What is antimicrobial resistance?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when bugs that cause infections become resistant to antimicrobials. AMR makes it difficult to treat the infection.
AMR rates are higher in aged care services than in hospitals.
Preventing antimicrobial misuse can reduce AMR in aged care services.
What is antimicrobial stewardship?
Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) is the careful and responsible management of medications used to treat or prevent infections.
It involves activities that promote and support best practice antimicrobial prescribing and use.
Who contributes to AMS in aged care services?
- consumers (residents, families, carers and representatives)
- aged care providers
- clinicians (nurses, doctors, personal care attendants)
AMS is a focus for improvement in aged care services
Aged care residents experience higher rates of infection than other older people. They also have higher rates of antimicrobial use, compared to the general population. Residents also have multiple risk factors that may lead to developing antimicrobial resistance.
The Aged Care National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey has shown for many years that inappropriate antimicrobial use for residents, long-term use of antimicrobials and the widespread prophylactic use are issues in aged care services.
National surveillance reports that rates of antimicrobial resistance for organisms including Staphylococcus aureus ('golden staph') and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are reported to be higher in aged care services than in the community.
The aim of the Commission’s antimicrobial stewardship work is to:
- improve the safe and appropriate use of antimicrobials
- reduce resident harm
- prevent and contain antimicrobial resistance in aged care services.
The Australian Aged Care Quality Standard 3 requirement (3)(g) and Standard 8 requirement (3)(d) require aged care providers to demonstrate actions to minimise infection-related risks to consumers, the workforce and the broader community.
- implementing practices to promote appropriate prescribing and use
- supporting optimal care of residents
- reducing the risk of increasing resistance to antimicrobials
- having a clinical governance framework that describes the approach of a service to ensure quality and safety of clinical care related to AMS.
Visit our dedicated AMS resources pages for: