ANTIBIOTIC resistant infections pose a serious global health threat and compared with people in other OECD countries, Australians have a high use of antibiotics.
Marking the beginning of Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 (November 14-20), Minister for Health and Aged Care, Sussan Ley, encouraged all Australians to consider their use carefully.
"People shouldn't expect their doctor to prescribe antibiotics for a cold or the flu, and we should only use antibiotics as they are prescribed and at the time they are prescribed," she said.
Pharmacist Christina Tsatsoulis from Christina's Community Pharmacy at Earlwood, said members of her profession were also endeavouring to make the public aware of the risks of the overuse of antibiotics.
"We are looking at minimising resistance by making sure that antibiotics are only used for serious infections rather than minor colds and flus," she said.
"Viruses cannot be treated by antibiotics and using them can actually kill off flora in your gut.
"We normally have good and bad bugs in our gut and that balance is absolutely necessary to maintain our health system."
NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden said the more antibiotics were used, the more chances bacteria had to become resistant to them.
"You can make antibiotic resistance worse if you use antibiotics when you don't need them, use old packs of antibiotics for a new infection, share antibiotics among friends or family, or fail to take antibiotics as your doctor prescribes, including the right amount and at the right time," he said.
Spokesperson for the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, associate professor Katie Flanagan, says she and her colleagues are also starting to see cases of resistance to "last resort antibiotics such as meropenem", which could lead to a future where some infections may be impossible to treat.
Specialist dermatologist Dr Ritu Gupta from Platinum Dermatology in Sydney, also warns about the overuse of topical antibiotics in creams and ointments when there are viable alternatives available, starting with preventing infections in the first place by keeping wounds clean.