Antibiotic awareness week

This week, from the  14-20 of  November its  Antibiotic awareness week, with the focus of the week being: :”Antibiotics handle with care”

A few years ago New Zealand had it’s first death from Pan resistance. A  Wellington man  passed away  after he had contracted a Pan resistant bacteria while travelling overseas. Unfortunately for this gentleman, he spent the last 6 months of his life in isolation in hospital after acquiring this Multi-drug resistant organism (MDRO).

So what is a Pan resistant bacterium? Well when you have an infection a specimen is often taken to identify what germ is causing the infection, and  this will determine what antibiotic can be used to treat it. The terms below will be used to indicate if a particular antibiotic will be effective:

  • Sensitive (S). The bacteria can be killed or weakened by antibiotics.
  • Intermediate (I). The bacteria may no longer be effective in killing the bacteria.
  • Resistant (R). The bacteria are no longer killed or weakened by the antibiotics. Bacteria is considered resistant when at least one major class of antibiotics is no longer effective in killing them.
  • Multi-drug resistant. Bacteria are resistant to at least two major classes of antibiotics.
  • Pan-resistant. Bacteria are resistant to all the major classes of antibiotics.


For those of us who work in aged care, the use of antibiotics can often be problematic. We do care for a vulnerable population at much greater risk of infection, so antibiotics are amongst the most commonly prescribed medications given in aged care facilities. The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 70% of residents in aged care received an antibiotic every year.

Antibiotic resistance in long-term care is associated with:

  • Increased risk of hospitalisation
  • Increased cost of treatments
  • Increased risk of death

Antibiotics are the most important tool we have to combat life-threatening bacterial disease. There is definitely a time and a place for the use of antibiotics. We just need to make sure antibiotics are not used inappropriately for example:

  • Prescribing unnecessarily, for example for viral infections, prolonged prophylaxis or asymptomatic clients
  • Obtain a microbiology culture prior to starting antibiotics when possible, so antibiotics can be adjusted or stopped when appropriate.
  • Remember that treatment with antibiotics is only appropriate when the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner prescribes their use  after reviewing the resident, and then diagnosing that the most likely cause of the symptoms is a bacterial infection.
  • Avoid use of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as colds, influenza and viral gastroenteritis.

If you would like to discuss further please contact me, or please leave a comment,  I’d love to hear from you;


References: infection/antimicrobial-stewardship/antibiotic-awareness-week/




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