Antimicrobial stewardship

This page has information for consumers, health care providers and educators. Please refer to subheadings for relevant information.

“Antimicrobial stewardship” (AMS) is the term used to describe actions and policies that ensure the safe and responsible prescribing, administration and disposal of antimicrobials.

Antimicrobials play an important role in treatment of infections but need to be used with care to help them continue to be effective. Antimicrobial stewardship is key to decreasing antimicrobial resistance. 

AMS is everyone’s business because antimicrobial resistance has large impacts on our communities and the way we live.

Consumers

Antimicrobials, stewardship, and resistance

What is an antimicrobial?

An antimicrobial is a medicine that kills microorganisms (microbes) or stops their growth. Microorganisms is the term used for tiny organisms which include bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa.  Microorganisms can cause infections in humans, animals and plants, which can then be treated with antimicrobials.

The 'What are Antimicrobials' graphic from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare is a helpful resource for consumers.

 Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) is a systematic approach to improving antimicrobial use, with a view to improving clinical outcomes and minimising adverse events relating to their use, including the development of antimicrobial resistance.

What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)? 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or protozoa) that cause infections, adapt over time and no longer respond to the medicines used to treat them (antimicrobials). These medicines can become less effective or ineffective, making infections more difficult or impossible   to treat. It is important to remember that resistance occurs to the microbes, not the medications use to treat them. 

Our page ‘Antibiotics — what you should know is for consumers and has valuable resources for patients and carers.

Educators

The Antimicrobial Programs team has produced educational resources for Primary School educators including lesson plans for each year level from Foundation/Reception to Year 6. 

Antimicrobial stewardship and antimicrobial resistance are important topics that can be addressed for secondary school SACE research projects. This presentation on the impact of antimicrobial resistance was part of a Year 11 research project, conducted by Sarah Bosboom, Scotch College, Adelaide in 2021.

The World Health Organization The Antimicrobial Awareness Week (AAW) occurs between 18th – 24th November each year. Several educational activities are coordinated by SA Health during this week, including a colouring competition for primary schools. For more information, including a curated book list of recommended children’s books, see the AAW page.

Health care providers

Effective hospital, aged care  and community AMS programs have been shown to decrease inappropriate antimicrobial use, reduce the burden of multidrug-resistant organisms, and improve the safety and quality of patient care.

Along with infection prevention and control activities (such as hand hygiene, environmental cleaning and managing patients with infection or colonisation), AMS is considered a key strategy in SA Health Safety and Quality programs that focus on preventing and controlling healthcare associated infections.

Having an established AMS program is a requirement of the National Safety and Quality Healthcare Service Standards (second edition)

Key components of antimicrobial stewardship programs

The key components of an effective AMS program include:

For detailed information on these components, see the Key components for antimicrobial stewardship page.

Educational Resources and e-learning for health care providers

'AMS: The Guts of It', is a webinar hosted by the South Australian expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (SAAGAR). It is focused on the intestinal microbiome, the impact of antibiotics and resistance in enteric pathogens.

The ACSQHC and National Prescribing Service (NPS) have developed a series of online learning modules for healthcare professionals to promote and support the responsible prescribing of antimicrobials.

What SA Health is doing

Antimicrobial Programs, SA Health

The Antimicrobial Programs team at SA Health includes pharmacists, microbiologists, and project officers with a range of expertise in antimicrobial surveillance, epidemiology, antimicrobial stewardship, and public health.

The team manages the National Antimicrobial Utilisation Surveillance Program (NAUSP) which conducts volume-based surveillance and data to monitor trends in antimicrobial usage and benchmark usage rates against other hospitals.

The Antimicrobial Programs team coordinates and manages the South Australian expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (SAAGAR). A key function of SAAGAR is to review and promote safe and appropriate use of antimicrobials. The group develop antimicrobial guidelines for statewide use as well as antimicrobial allergy information and position statements on focus areas relevant to antimicrobial stewardship.

In 2022, the South Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan (SAAMRAP) Steering Committee was established to develop an action plan with the aim to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials and to minimise the spread of antimicrobial resistance. This cross-sector committee involves human health, animals and environment is coordinated by the Antimicrobial Programs team.

Further information

For further information on antimicrobial stewardship contact HealthAntibio@sa.gov.au

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