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September 16, 2019
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Medical experts for immediate action to combat rising rates of antibiotic resistance

As the resistance to antibiotic resistance is rising, the infectious diseases experts are calling for immediate action to combat the rising rates of antibiotic resistance in remote Indigenous communities.

A new paper published in the Medical Journal of Australia has underlined the urgent need for antimicrobial stewardship — the process of trying to prevent the misuse of antibiotics.

Northeast Arnhem Land mother Fiona Djerrkura, a Yolngu woman, has seen the conversation around antibiotic use change over the years that she has been bringing her children to the doctor.

“My older children, who are now adults, there was definitely a pattern in regular prescription of antibiotics, particularly with those sorts of illnesses around ear infections, skin sores and things like that,” Ms Djerrkura said.

Over the years, she has become more knowledgeable.

“I guess building up my confidence as well to have these conversations with my GP — I now have a better understanding of the potential risks involved in over-prescribing,” she said.

An earlier study of the medical records of 400 children in five Arnhem Land communities found 95 per cent had received at least one antibiotic prescription by their first birthday, and almost half had received six prescriptions.

The World Health Organisation said antibiotic resistance is rising to “dangerously high” levels in all parts of the world, threatening the ability of health workers to treat common infections.

In remote Indigenous communities, skin sores, respiratory tract and ear infections and sore throats are common.

Dr Asha Bowen, head of skin health at Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute, is one of the authors of the journal article.

“The problem of antimicrobial resistance is high in the remote Aboriginal sector,” Dr Bowen said. “And there’s also a huge problem of infections that need to be treated. “Clinicians do a great job of following guidelines and taking care of patients in remote and rural settings.

“The next level up is really having that level of oversight and understanding at a regional level what’s going on with the use of antibiotics, and I think that’s the level that’s not there at the moment.”