Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond (2020 AMR Strategy)
On 13 March 2020, the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the 2020 AMR Strategy. Building on Australia’s First National AMR Strategy 2015-2019, the 2020 Strategy sets a 20-year vision to protect the health of humans, animals and the environment, and continues to align with the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on AMR. The 2020 AMR Strategy represents the expert views and strong collaboration of stakeholders from across governments, and the animal and human health, environment, agricultural and food sectors.
Implementation will be guided by a high-level One Health action plan, development of which has commenced, and more detailed sector-specific action plans.
Australian Animal Sector National Antimicrobial Resistance Plan 2018
Australian animal sector stakeholders agreed to provide strategic, national and coordinated support to the national AMR strategy 2015-19 and subsequent national AMR strategies through an Animal Sector National Antimicrobial Resistance Plan 2018 (AMR Plan). The AMR Plan was developed by the animal sector for the animal sector. Under the AMR Plan, stakeholders agreed that a number of priority activities are required to build on the animals sector’s work to address AMR. Drafting is currently underway on an action plan to seek wider stakeholder agreement on priority activities.
What is antimicrobial resistance?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses and parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result of AMR, standard medical treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others. Resistance to current antimicrobials is increasing faster than the development of new drugs, and so effective treatments cannot keep pace. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes AMR as a looming crisis in which common and treatable infections will become life threatening.
AMR to some extent is a natural phenomenon. Each time antimicrobials (such as antibiotics) are used, the microorganisms either die or adapt by acquiring resistance. It is clear though that certain human actions accelerate this process of increasing resistance, and the single most powerful contributor to this is the global unrestrained use of antimicrobials. This includes underuse, overuse and misuse, and applies to the use of antimicrobials in human and animal health (food animals and domestic pets) and in agriculture.
Further information on the development of antibiotic resistance is provided in the Occasional Paper Meeting the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance: Building a New Frontline Defence produced by the Office of the Chief Scientist.
What are the implications of AMR?
AMR infections necessitate additional investigations, more complex and expensive treatments, longer hospital stays, and lead to greater mortality. Extended recovery time means that patients remain infectious for longer, increasing the risk of resistant infections spreading to others. Treating resistant infections is also very costly, as more expensive medicines need to be used. Longer hospital stays result in increased healthcare costs for patients and societies.
In animals, AMR infections result in reduced animal health, welfare, biosecurity and production outcomes. AMR infections in animals can result in the transfer of resistant bacteria to people who come into contact with them. AMR infections in animals destined for human consumption also pose a risk of foodborne transmission.
Relevant initiatives and reports
- The Departments of Health and Agriculture established an Australian Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on AMR (ASTAG) in June 2014 to develop and provide technical, scientific and clinical advice to the Antimicrobial Resistance Governance Group (formerly Antimicrobial Resistance Protection and Containment Steering Group). More information can be found at on the AMR website.
- The report, Surveillance and reporting of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic usage in animals and agriculture in Australia, provides an contemporary analysis of antimicrobial usage monitoring and resistance surveillance activities in the animal/agriculture sector in Australia and other countries; options for the establishment of a nationally coordinated approach to usage monitoring and resistance surveillance in the animal/agriculture sector appropriate for the Australian context; the enablers and barriers for each option and how each option accords with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Standards.
- The report, Quantity of Antimicrobial Products Sold for Veterinary Use in Australia, provides data on antimicrobial product sales in Australia between 2005 and 2010. This report can be found on the APVMA website.
- The Australia and New Zealand Standard Diagnostic Procedures for Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing were finalised in July 2014.
- The department held an AMR Roundtable with representatives from government, animal industries, research institutions and others on 4 July 2013. The communiqué can be found on the department's website.
- A One Health AMR Colloquium was held on 18 July 2013. The aim of the Colloquium was to bring together experts and industry representatives from the human and animal health, food, agriculture, and academic sectors to discuss key One Health priorities and strategies for addressing AMR in Australia. A report of the day’s discussions can be found on the Department of Health website.
- The department held a second AMR Roundtable with representatives from government, animal industries, research institutions and others on 1 December 2014. The communiqué can be found on the department's website.
- The Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR) released its report on The Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals: Antibiotic-Resistant bacteria in Animals and Humans in September 1999, making 22 recommendations for antimicrobial resistance management.
- Recommendation 10 of the JETACAR report emphasised the need to establish surveillance for antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from livestock as part of an integrated risk management system that also includes human and food isolates. The department has responsibility for the animal component of a surveillance and monitoring system. The department implemented a surveillance program, in November 2003. In this program, bacteria isolated from gut contents of healthy animals were tested for resistance to a range of antibiotics. The findings of the Pilot Surveillance Program for Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria of Animal Origin provide a snapshot of the prevalence of resistance to important antimicrobials in key indicator bacteria found in the gut of food-producing animals in Australia.
- The department has a leading role in addressing concerns about antimicrobial resistance relating to the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals in Australia. In the past, the department co-chaired the Commonwealth Interdepartmental JETACAR Implementation Group (CIJIG) and was involved in the work of the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The department also led the Australian delegation (including Food Standards Australia New Zealand) at the latest meeting of the Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2021 where the international food standard relating to AMR was finalised and subsequently adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
- In 2013, the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration completed an inquiry into the Progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 1999 Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance. The findings of the inquiry can be found on the Parliament of Australia website.
- The Health Portfolio submission to the inquiry.
- The Agriculture Portfolio submission to the inquiry.