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What can I do to combat AMR?
Do not demand antibiotics
from your doctor
Follow your doctor’s advice
when taking antibiotics
Do not stop taking antibiotics
by yourselves even
if you are feeling better
Practise frequent hand hygiene,
especially before eating
and taking medicine, and
after going to the toilet
Ensure your vaccination is up-to-date
Maintain cough etiquette,
wear a surgical mask
if you have respiratory symptoms
About Antimicrobial Resistance
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) evolve to become resistant to previously effective medications (i.e. antimicrobials). It is considered one of the greatest threats to global health and economy.
Antibiotics are medications used for treating bacterial infection. When antibiotics wipe out disease-causing bacteria in our body, normal bacteria are also killed, thereby increasing the opportunity for resistant bacteria to grow and multiply. These resistant bacteria are sometimes referred to as ‘superbugs’. Some superbugs are capable of resisting more than one antibiotic and such infections are difficult to treat. Although there may be alternative antibiotics available, they may be less effective or cause more side effects. Moreover, the development of new medicines is too far behind to keep pace with AMR evolution. If the problem of AMR does not improve, there would be fewer effective treatment options.
To combat the issue, actions taken by the healthcare sector alone are not enough and concerted efforts from the general public are crucial.
Related Questions and Answers
- What are antimicrobial agents and antibiotics?
There are many types of microorganism, such as bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites.
Antimicrobial agents, including antibiotics, are drugs that can kill or suppress disease-causing microorganisms.
Antibiotics are drugs for treating bacterial infections, either by killing the bacteria or stopping them from growing. There are different types of antibiotics for treating different bacterial infections.
Antibiotics are not effective in curing viral infections such as common cold and influenza (flu)
and cannot make recovery faster.
- What are antimicrobial resistance bacteria?
‘Antimicrobial resistance’ occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective.
‘Antibiotic resistance’ happens when bacteria evolve to become resistant to previously effective antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are sometimes referred to as 'superbugs'.
When the bacteria become resistant to most commonly used antibiotics, they are referred to as ‘multi-drug resistant organisms’ (or MDROs). When the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, the risk of spread to others will also increase.
- What causes antimicrobial resistance?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs naturally over time through genetic changes and can affect humans and animals. It develops when microorganisms adapt and grow in the presence of antimicrobials (including properly used antimicrobials). However, AMR is accelerated by misuse and overuse of antimicrobials (examples include misuse of antibiotics for treatment of viral infections such as common cold and influenza, and improper use of antimicrobial on food animals). Among all antimicrobials, resistance to antibiotics for treatment of bacterial infection is the most serious problem. Resistant bacteria are often acquired through ingestion or contact from colonised or infected animals, food or humans, or their contaminated environment. AMR has no respect for borders and direction and can be transmitted in a bi-directional manner from animals to humans and vice versa.
- What are the consequences of AMR?
If the problem of AMR does not improve, existing antimicrobials would become ineffective and infections could not be cured, resulting in prolonged illness and increased risk of death. Without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, chemotherapy for cancer, diabetes management and major surgeries become more risky in particular for patients who are frail. Infections caused by resistant bacteria can spread to people around you and impose huge threats to community and population health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and WHO Regional Office for Western Pacific issued the ‘Global Action Plan on AMR’ and the ‘Action Agenda for AMR in Western Pacific Region’ respectively in 2015. Both documents emphasized the importance of adopting the One Health framework in formulating and implementing strategies to combat AMR.
The One Health concept stresses that the rising threat of AMR should be addressed by a comprehensive framework adopting a mutli-sectoral and whole-of-society approach. It calls for collaborative actions to be taken by different sectors, including human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, food, environment, pharmaceutical industry and consumers.
In view of the threat of AMR to global public health, the Government announced in the 2016 Policy Address to set up a High Level Steering Committee on AMR (HLSC) to formulate strategies and implement actions. Chaired by the Secretary for Food and Health, HLSC comprises representatives from relevant Government departments, public and private hospitals, healthcare organisations, academia and relevant professional bodies. Under a One Health framework, the HLSC has considered the recommendations proposed by the Expert Committee on AMR and has taken human health, animal health and environment fronts into consideration in formulating the holistic Hong Kong Strategy and Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (2017-2022) (Action Plan), which proposed recommendations in six key areas as follows:
- Strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research;
- Optimise use of antimicrobials in humans and animals;
- Reduce incidence of infection through effective sanitation, hygiene and preventive measures;
- Improve awareness and understanding of AMR through effective communication, education and training;
- Promote research on AMR; and
- Strengthen partnerships and foster engagement of relevant stakeholders.
Press Releases & Publications
- Wholesale Supply Data of Antibiotics in Hong Kong
- Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in Public Hospitals
- Antimicrobial Use (AMU) Surveillance in Public Hospitals and Clinics
Health Education Materials
- TV and Radio Announcement of Public Interest
- Experts view: Safe use of antibiotics and prevent multi-drug resistant organisms (5 Episodes)
- Experts view: How to control multi-drug resistant organisms (8 Episodes)
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