The bacteria causing gonorrhoea and meningitis are among the numerous dangerous organisms growing increasingly resistant to common antibiotics in Australia, a new report suggests.
That's despite GPs and other primary health carers reining in the levels of antibiotic prescribing for the first time in 20 years.
The third comprehensive report into antimicrobial use and resistance trends on Thursday showed antimicrobial resistance, which is driven by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, shows little sign of lessening and continues to pose a risk to patient safety.
Disease-producing pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Neisseria meningitidis are becoming increasingly resistant to major drug classes.
Some organisms are even resistant to last-resort treatments.
The report suggests not all health care workers are tackling the problem equally, with a rise in prescriptions in hospitals and significant inappropriate use in aged care homes.
Almost a quarter of all assessed hospital antibiotic prescriptions were found to be inappropriate with surgical prophylaxis still prescribed beyond the recommended 24 hours in 30 per cent of all cases.
In aged care homes - where multidrug-resistant organisms were found in high numbers - more than half of prescriptions were issued to residents with no signs or symptoms of infection.
Two in five Australians were recipients of at least one of the 26.5 million antimicrobial prescriptions dispensed in 2017.
But overall use of antibiotics in the community fell between 2015 and 2017, the first decline in 20 years.
This suggests campaigns targeted at GPs and the public about risks of inappropriate antibiotic use are beginning to cut through, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care says.
Further progress will help slow the spread of resistance, the commission's clinical director Kathryn Daveson said.
"(But) these latest findings indicate that the levels of inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in hospitals and the community are still too high and there is more work to be done," Dr Daveson said in a statement.
Focus areas include reducing the inappropriate prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics, particularly for urinary tract and skin infections, and improving the appropriateness of prescriptions for respiratory diseases.
Australian Associated Press