Frequent antibiotic use putting seniors at risk of antimicrobial resistance: study

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Frequent and inappropriate use of antibiotics in Australian nursing homes is putting residents at a high risk of antimicrobial resistance, a new study has found.

The Aged Care National Antimicrobial Prescribing Survey looked at prescribing behaviours and frequency of infections in 186 aged-care facilities around the country.

It found one in five prescriptions given in residential aged-care facilities were inappropriate, meaning residents were prescribed an antibiotic with no clear infection.

One in three prescriptions were prescribed for six months or more, putting residents at a high risk of antimicrobial resistance.

In addition, 65 per cent of prescriptions did not have a review or stop date and 30 per cent did not have a specific reason for their use.

The study was carried out by the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship (NCAS) and Victorian Healthcare Associated Infection Surveillance Coordinating Centre.

“Prescribing is particularly poor in the areas of urinary tract, skin and chest infections,” said NCAS Director Professor Karin Thursky in a statement.

Ms Thursky, who is also the Royal Melbourne Hospital Infectious Diseases Specialist at the Doherty Institute, said there were a number of areas that needed to be addressed in aged-care facilities to prevent resistance, which is now one of the biggest threats to human health.

“In Australia, we need to improve the documentation associated with prescriptions, including justification for their use and a review or stop date," she said.

"And importantly, infections need to be correctly identified before medications are prescribed.

“Further collaborations with key aged-care organisations and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is required to ensure initiatives to improve prescribing behaviours are sustainable and appropriately tailored for the sector."

Senior Medical Advisor at the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Professor John Turnidge, said in a statement: “This survey provides essential information to improve the effectiveness and safety of antibiotic prescribing for residents in aged care facilities across Australia."

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