Unnecessary use and misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials is increasing the serious problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Canada and around the world. Resistant microbes make infections much harder or impossible to treat. Antimicrobial Awareness Week (formerly Antibiotic Awareness Week), November 18 – 24, promotes informed, careful use of these life-saving medicines to help keep them working for future generations.
New data suggest that the potential impact of AMR poses a serious threat to the health and wealth of Canada
Antimicrobials – Handle with care.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ranks among the top 10 global public health threats, according to the World Health Organization.
Antimicrobial resistance is on the rise in Canada (CARSS Updated 2020). Canadian experts estimate that 26% of infections—about 1 in 4—are already resistant to the first drugs used to treat them (CCA 2019). As it stands, 5,400 people die as a direct result of antimicrobial resistance in Canada each year. If we continue to overuse antibiotics as we are, the rate of resistance is likely to grow to 40% by 2050, with annual deaths upwards of 13,700. The social and economic impacts of AMR may feel like a heavier burden in the daily lives of Canadians (CCA 2019).
What are antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance?
Antimicrobials are medications designed to kill or stop the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites that cause infections. They are used to prevent and treat disease, not only in humans, but also in animals and plants.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites adapt in ways that allow them to fend off or disable antimicrobials. This happens naturally, but overuse and misuse of antimicrobials accelerates these changes. The result is infections that are harder to treat, causing more severe illness, longer hospital stays, and more often death.
This whiteboard video explains antimicrobial resistance and what it means to be a ‘steward’ of antibiotics.
Where do we see the effects of AMR?
The effects of AMR go unnoticed by many of us and it is hard to imagine how it will change the lives of Canadians. For front-line healthcare providers, the effects of AMR are clearer. They see a growing number of infections that do not respond to antibiotics and patients they cannot help. Bacterial pneumonia, gonorrhea and urinary tract infections are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat.
Without effective antibiotics, other treatments will also become risky. Patients needing surgery, dialysis and chemotherapy will be poorly protected from the risks of life-threatening infections.
What can you do? Handle antimicrobials with care!
Proper prescription and use of antimicrobials helps slow the rise and spread of drug-resistant organisms. Canadian prescribers, patients, and the public can all learn more about when antibiotics and other antimicrobials are necessary and when they are not.
One important example is—antibiotics do not work against common cold, flu or corona viruses, and are often unnecessary for some bacterial infections. Despite these facts, inappropriate antibiotic prescription remains common in Canada–estimated at over 30% of all prescriptions, and 50% of prescriptions for respiratory infections.
Slowing the rise and spread of resistant bacteria and other microbes calls for a more balanced view of both the risks and benefits of antimicrobials. One of the best ways to combat antimicrobial resistance is to ask questions like “Is an antibiotic necessary?” or “When is the best care: no antibiotics?”
Improved infection prevention is also helpful, because fewer infections in our hospitals, long-term care homes and communities means less antimicrobial use, and less selective pressure for microbes to develop resistance. You can also apply these proven practices: keep vaccinations up-to-date, commit to good hand and food hygiene, and limit close contact with others when you are ill.
Learn more from the resources and tools below.
FOR THE PUBLIC
One of the most important drivers of antimicrobial resistance is the overuse of antibiotics. Become informed about appropriate antibiotic use and share the resources below. Learn from the personal stories of those harmed by drug-resistant bacteria and share their stories to make others aware of the human costs of antibiotic misuse and overuse.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canada’s leading public health authority provides information on antibiotic resistance (and antimicrobial), its causes, risks to human health, and the correct use of antibiotics. Learn how the Canadian government tracks and responds to this critical public health challenge.
AntibioticWise provides videos and answers to your questions about antibiotics, their proper use, and antibiotic resistance. Learn about when and when not to use antibiotics.
AntibioticWise provides lesson plans to help teachers, early childhood educators, public health nurses and other educators teach students about the basics of antibiotic resistance, germs, and the importance of handwashing.
Sometimes No Antibiotic is the Best Prescription
This short video for patients explores when you may not need antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections and what you can do to feel better without antibiotics.
Antibiotic Awareness Quiz
Quiz your knowledge on appropriate antibiotic use and possible consequences of misuse for a chance to win fun prizes!
Antibiotics for cold and flu symptoms?
4 Common Infections – Do You Need Antibiotics?
Infographics from Public Health Ontario provide guidance on when antibiotics are not needed for some common infections. Topics include: Do you need antibiotics? Ear infection, Sinus infection, Sore throat, and Bronchitis.
Do Bugs Need Drugs? Parents’ Guide
Do Bugs Need Drugs? Parents’ Guide Parents, this guide, produced by Alberta Health Services’ Do Bugs Need Drugs program, helps you build knowledge on appropriate antibiotic use for your child. Learn what symptoms signal the need for medical attention and the best way to stop the spread of infections. Available in several languages, including Cree.
Antibiotics and You
This video explains what antibiotics and the microbiome are, how they work, and side effects that you may experience. It also suggests questions to ask your health care providers when you have been prescribed an antibiotic.
Antibiotics and the Zoo Living In You
The microbiome is an important environment of trillions of organisms living on and within you. Watch this video to learn how antibiotics can disrupt this delicate ecosystem and what you can do to protect your microbiome.
Patients for Patient Safety Canada
The patient-led program of Healthcare Excellence Canada hosts a webpage in support of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Visit the webpage for patient stories and other resources developed specifically for patients and the public. Disponibles en français
What happens when antibiotics stop working?
Learn about the possible harms of drug-resistant microbes from those who have experienced an infection during a hospital stay, while traveling, or from an unknown source in their community.
Let these stories inspire you to learn and do more to use antibiotics and other antimicrobials wisely. Share them to help build awareness.
Mary’s story began with a post-surgical infection. Her experience reminds us that Canadians are at risk for resistant infections, and our older family members are vulnerable with extended use of antibiotics. Read her full story.
Tatiana was a healthy 25-year-old newlywed when a resistant infection turned her life upside down. Read or watch her story of quarantine, many weeks of treatment, and long-lasting effects. This is one of many stories shared by the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter campaign.
Share Your Story
Join the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition, a community united by the common goal of combating the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. Participants express their commitment by declaring “I’m a resistance fighter” and describing how they are taking personal responsibility to combat AMR. Share your story.
Healthcare professionals are leaders for the appropriate use of antibiotics.
When the potential benefit of an antimicrobial outweighs the risk of harms, you and your team ensure patients get the right drug, at the right time, at the right dose, and for the shortest effective duration. Your actions promote quality patient care and protect public health.
Download and share tools and resources to help improve antimicrobial use and reduce harm to Canadians from antimicrobial resistance. Build knowledge of stewardship principles and their applications in practice through accredited training, accessible guidelines, and tips from experts.
Using Antibiotics Wisely Campaign
Choosing Wisely Canada provides practice change recommendations for primary care, hospital and long-term care settings. Resources are available—for primary care and long-term care settings. A third edition of the Cold Standard toolkit has been released for managing respiratory tract infections in the era of COVID-19 and virtual care.
The Public Health Agency of Canada builds awareness of the higher likelihood of unnecessary prescribing to older adults for specific conditions. They feature key clinical points on asymptomatic bacteriuria, upper respiratory infections, and vaccination. Learn more.
Rethink Antibiotic Prescribing
Pharmacy5in5 is an online learning platform designed by pharmacists, popular for its innovative digital tools for all healthcare professionals. Check out their short video on antibiotic prescribing and related infographic.
Symptom-Free Pee: Let It Be
Help stop inappropriate antibiotic use for asymptomatic bacteriuria in long-term care residents and elderly patients in acute care. Download bilingual resources, freely available for use in your practice setting.
Viral Prescription Pads
To be used with patients who have a suspected viral infection, this time-saving educational tool provides information about symptomatic relief and indicates when to consider a return visit. Adult and child versions are available. Order free copies here.
Antimicrobial Stewardship Essentials
Practical, evidence-based information on how to promote antimicrobial stewardship in a range of healthcare settings, from Public Health Ontario. Learn more. NEW infographics on strategies to reduce antibiotic overuse in primary care.
Education & Guides
A Call to Action
The Antimicrobial Resistance Policy, issued by the Canadian Medical Association and AMMI Canada, presents recommendations for targeted awareness promotion in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Learn about your role in controlling AMR. Download here.
Bugs & Drugs – A Guide to Therapy
This comprehensive guide to antimicrobial therapy and aid to wiser antibiotic use in front-line practice is available as a mobile app for both Android and iPhone.
Antimicrobial Stewardship in Primary Care (Updated for 2021)
Produced by the University of Waterloo, this award-winning series of multimedia modules provides community-based practitioners with general principles for antimicrobial stewardship and strategies to optimize antimicrobial use in a variety of common clinical scenarios. The course is accredited for pharmacists and family physicians. Click here for more information or to register.
Community Antimicrobial Stewardship Continuing Education
A free, self-directed online course providing community-based practitioners with the latest evidence and treatment guidelines for use of antibiotics in primary care. Certified for 3.5 Mainpro+ credits.
Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs Chat (#ASPChat)
A real-time Twitter Chat promotes appropriate antibiotic use and stewardship in practice. Chats are open to all and run on the third Thursday of each month from 7-8 PM EST. In November, the topic is awareness raising. Follow @ASP_chat for information.
Healthcare providers and public health leaders are witnessing the human and health system costs of antibiotic resistance, in Canada and around the world.
Their stories illustrate how important it is to adopt effective practices and policies. Read and share their stories to act on the threat of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance.
The 7 Minutes
Prince County Hospital ER is a shining star on wise antibiotic use for the province of PEI. The 7 minutes spent explaining why a patient doesn’t need antibiotics is worth it. Watch it here.
You get the virus, you need a virus plan
Peters Wayne, Dr. Navqui and Greg Burton, community pharmacists from PEI, share their experiences with antibiotic prescription, advice to patients regarding antibiotic use, and antibiotic use in long-term care facilities. Watch it here.
Sarah Lutes, a hospital pharmacist in PEI, shares her story about community acquired pneumonia (CAP) and how Health PEI’s development of guidelines helped to stop unwise prescribing of Moxifloxacin. Watch it here.
Share Your Story
Join the Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition, a community united by the common goal of combating the global threat of AMR. Participants express their commitment by declaring “I’m a resistance fighter” and describing how they are taking personal responsibility to combat AMR. Share your story. Learn more.
Join the global movement to stop Antimicrobial Resistance.
Antimicrobial resistance (including antibiotic resistance) is one of the most urgent public health challenges of our time. A global response is necessary.
In May 2015, the World Health Organization issued a Global Action Plan on AMR, endorsed by Canada and other Member States. Nations now mobilize to improve practices across sectors—including health, agriculture and industry. Key to plans and progress is improving awareness of antimicrobial resistance and understanding appropriate use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) and allied campaigns around the globe raise awareness of AMR among the general public, healthcare practitioners and policymakers. WAAW is celebrated annually from November 18-24.
Learn more about the global threat of AMR from these leading, allied campaigns:
In response to increasing harms from drug-resistant infections, a collaborative initiative formed to promote more informed use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in Canada.
The National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID) works with several partners to align on priority messages concerning AMR and to extend the reach of leading campaigns across diverse settings, sectors, and regions. NCCID curates a set of tools and resources contributed by partners for dissemination on this website, and promotes relevant events and publications of evidence through social media channels.
NCCID is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and has worked closely with the Agency to support collaborative projects focused on antimicrobial resistance, including assessments of surveillance, information exchanges on promising stewardship practices, and coordinated awareness building.
The organizations and individuals who partner on this initiative are leaders in diverse areas of public health, quality healthcare, antibiotic and antimicrobial stewardship, patient safety, and infection prevention and control. In acknowledgement of their contributions of time and expertise to this campaign, our partners are listed below.
Follow @CentreInfection, like and share messages throughout the campaign.
For more information on this initiative to build awareness of antimicrobial resistance in Canada, please contact the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases.
Production of this website has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Agency.