Antimicrobial resistance: A significant public health threat


1 May 2017

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a significant public health threat in Ontario and worldwide. The use of antimicrobials contributes to the growing rates of resistance. Antimicrobial resistance can occur naturally, through mutation or by picking up resistant genes (meaning the genes are “coding” for resistance) from other microbes. It is imperative to preserve the effectiveness of established antibiotics as antibiotic discovery is costly, slow, and ultimately uncertain.

With the ineffectiveness of antimicrobial drugs on the rise, action must be taken to ensure antimicrobials are used appropriately (also known as “antimicrobial stewardship”) to safeguard the availability of future treatments for both common and serious infections. However, addressing this threat requires a “One Health” approach; a shared and coordinated multi-disciplinary action to address AMR in humans, animals and the environment.  

At PHO, we aim to help advance antimicrobial stewardship in Ontario by providing scientific and technical guidance, resources, and expertise to support stakeholders in implementing antimicrobial stewardship in their practice. PHO is also involved in research and evaluation of antimicrobial use and stewardship practices in acute care, primary care and long-term care settings.

Antimicrobial use in long-term care homes

Antibiotics are the most commonly used type of antimicrobials, and are frequently prescribed in long-term care homes. In Ontario, 78% of residents of long-term care homes receive at least one antibiotic course each year and approximately 50% of these courses are unnecessary. Older residents are at a particularly elevated risk of harm from antibiotics such as AMR, Clostridium difficile infection, and side effects.

To help draw awareness to the high usage and variability of antibiotic prescribing in long-term care homes, PHO has developed an infographic that describes the scope of the issue as well as the importance of practicing antibiotic stewardship.

Sharing this information is a first step in working toward antibiotic stewardship practices to help improve care for these residents and mitigate AMR.

Steps you can take to practice antibiotic stewardship:

  • Reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions  
  • Re-assess the need for antibiotics regularly
  • Use the shortest effective duration possible


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Updated 1 May 2017