Antimicrobials –
Handle with care.

Unnecessary use and misuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, is contributing to a rise in resistant microbes, making infections much harder, and increasingly 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.



Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most urgent health threats we face globally.

Antimicrobials – Handle with care.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ranks among the top 10 global public health threats, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 700,000 deaths worldwide already result from drug-resistant infections each year.  By 2050, if we continue using antibiotics as we are now, approximately 10 million people worldwide will die from resistant infections each year—more than the number of deaths caused by cancer (O’Neill 2016).

Antimicrobial resistance is also on the rise in Canada (CARSS Updated 2020). Based on 2018 data, Canadian experts estimate that 26% of infections—about 1 in 4—are resistant to the drugs generally used to treat them, and predict 40% resistance by 2050. Over this period, health and societal costs of AMR will total to 396,000 lives lost, $120 billion in added hospital expenses, and a $388 billion decline in GDP (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 and develop characteristics that allow them to fend off or disable antimicrobials. This happens naturally, but greater exposure to antimicrobials accelerates these changes. Microbes that develop resistance are not killed and multiply. 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?

It is difficult to imagine the scale of AMR impacts and how they will change the lives of Canadians. For front-line healthcare providers, the effects of AMR are already seen in a growing number of infections that do not respond to antibiotics. 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 requiring surgery, dialysis and chemotherapy will be poorly protected from the risks of life-threatening infections.

What can you do? Handle antimicrobials with care!

Proper use and prescription of antimicrobials helps slow the rise and spread of drug-resistant organisms. Canadian prescribers, patients, and the public can all learn more about when antimicrobials are necessary and when they are not.

One important example is—antibiotics do not work against common cold and flu 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.

There are many influences on antimicrobial overuse, including the expectations that providers, patients and caregivers have that a prescription signals good care. To slow the global antimicrobial crisis we must take a more balanced view of antimicrobials, considering both their benefits and harms. One of the best ways to combat antimicrobial resistance is to start conversations between prescribers and patients—Is an antibiotic necessary? When is the best care: no antibiotics? 

Slowing the emergence and spread of resistant organisms also calls for improved infection prevention, 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.  Apply these proven practices: keep vaccinations up-to-date, make good hand and food hygiene habits regular, and limit close contact with others when you are ill.

Learn more from the resources and tools below.

Antibiotic Awareness Week Video


You can help combat antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance!


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.

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 Wise Quiz

Quiz your knowledge on appropriate antibiotic use and possible consequences of misuse.

Antibiotics for cold and flu symptoms?

This handy infographic from the Pharmacy5in5 team at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy provides information on the appropriate use of antibiotics for common respiratory tract infections.

Using Antibiotic Wisely in the COVID-19 Era

This webinar, by Public Health Ontario, focuses on identifying tools and resources that can be used to improve the appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing for patients receiving virtual care. It also describes the risk of bacterial co-infection in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and lists factors of COVID-19 likely to affect antibiotic resistance globally. Watch the recorded webinar here. You can also download the slideshow.

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

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 8 languages, including the new Cree guide.

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.

What do you need to know about penicillin?

AntibioticWise explains that true penicillin allergies are rare. Learn why an evaluation of your penicillin allergy could lead to more effective treatment for your infection and greater protection from drug-resistance. Learn more here.

Say Naaah, Dental campaign

Learn more about the use of antibiotics in dental care, and why they may not be needed for every condition.

Patients for Patient Safety Canada

The patient-led program of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute 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.


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

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.

➤ SHARE her story: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Lill-Karin’s Story

Lill-Karin, Norway, caught a bacterial infection resistant to many antibiotics after an accident and a hospital stay while on holiday abroad. Read her story.

➤ SHARE her story: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Paolo’s story

Paolo fell ill with a severe urinary infection with an E.coli resistant to many antibiotics. It took two months, and three courses of different antibiotics before doctors were able to treat Paolo’s infection successfully. Read his story.

➤ SHARE his story: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Tatiana’s 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.


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.

Using Antibiotics Wisely Campaign

Choosing Wisely Canada provides practice change recommendations for primary care, hospital and long-term care settings. Resources for download include patient handouts and posters for waiting rooms. A second edition of the Cold Standard toolkit has been released for managing respiratory tract infections in the era of COVID-19 and virtual care.

Clinical Points

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 in Primary Care (Updated for 2020) (Online Course)

Produced by the University of Waterloo, this award-winning, accredited series of multimedia modules provides general principles for antimicrobial stewardship for all community-based practitioners. It includes strategies to optimize antimicrobial use in a variety of common clinical scenarios. Click here for more information or to register.

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.

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.

Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Stories

Dr. Yoav Keynan

Scientific Lead, National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases

David Patrick, MD

Professor, School of Population and Public Health University of British Columbia

Paul-Émile Cloutier

President and CEO, HealthCareCAN


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.

Canadians are invited to join the international movement. Start by learning about some leading campaigns.


World Antimicrobial Awareness Week / World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization & World Organisation for Animal Health


U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


European Antibiotic Awareness Day / European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control


Antibiotic Guardian / Public Health England



In response to increasing harms from drug-resistant infections, a national network of partners came together to promote more informed use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials by the public, patients and health care providers in Canada.

The National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCCID) works with partners to align and amplify messages, share evidence-informed campaign strategies, and to extend the reach of individual initiatives across many settings, sectors, and diverse regions. NCCID curates a set of tools and resources contributed by partners for dissemination on this website, and cross-promotes campaign events through social media channels.

NCCID is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada for this and other collaborative projects focused on antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial stewardship.  Partners on this initiative are leaders in diverse areas of public health, quality healthcare, antibiotic and antimicrobial stewardship, patient safety, and infection prevention and control.  The many committed partners who  contribute their expertise to this campaign are listed below.

Follow @CentreInfection, like and share messages throughout the campaign.

Contact NCCID to learn more about the current campaign.


For more information on coordinated awareness-building efforts in Canada, please contact the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases.


Partners |  Twitter: @AMMICanada | Twitter: @antibioticwise | Twitter: @AMResistance | Twitter: @canadanurses | Twitter: @Patient_Safety | Twitter: @CPhAAPhC | Twitter: @ChooseWiselyCA | Twitter: @DoBugsNeedDrugs | Twitter: @HealthCareCAN | Twitter: @IPACCanada | Twitter: @centreinfection | Twitter: @patients4safety | Twitter: @GovCanHealth and @CPHO_Canada | Twitter: @PublicHealthON | Twitter: @QualityofCareNL


Sinai Health System-University Health Network | Twitter: @SHSUHNASP | Twitter: @UWPharmacy and @pharmacy5in5


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.