Media Representation of Antimicrobial Resistance: Risk and Benefits to Public Understanding and Preparedness for a “New Dark Age” of Superbugs

Dr Stephane Bouchoucha1, Dr Megan Jane Johnstone, Ms Emma Whatman1

1Deakin University, Geelong, Australia


The WHO has warned that the world has entered into a new ‘post-antibiotic era’ in which common infections and minor injuries can kill. How best to inform the public of this threat and galvanise a proactive response remains an open question.  Mass circulation media traditionally has taken an active role in informing the public on public health and public health emergency events and, in turn, shapes the public’s perceptions, understandings and responses to these events. Its role in informing and shaping the public’s responses to AMR in the Australian context, however, has not been comprehensively examined.


Progressed as an unobtrusive qualitative research enquiry, data were retrieved from a range of print and electronic media, documentaries, and film databases, and analysed using thematic analysis strategies.


Analysis of the data suggests that overall the media has taken a responsive and responsible approach to its coverage of the AMR issue. It is questionable, however, whether its approach has resonated with the general public or has been successful in galvanising the public concern necessary to ensure an effective response to the dangers and threats posed by AMR.


Although media reports have provided responsive and responsible coverage of the AMR issue, it has not been sufficient to galvanise the kind of change in public knowledge, understanding and behaviour that addressing the AMR issue requires. This paper will conclude by suggesting new directions for addressing the AMR issue and the possible role of health professionals in leading public narratives on AMR.


Dr Stéphane Bouchoucha has over 20 years’ experience as a clinician, academic and researcher with a focus on critical care, public health, and infection prevention and control. He is a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Deakin University. Stéphane is part of Deakin University’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS). His research focus is health behaviours, exercise and stress and infection prevention and control, specifically the psychosocial factors influencing adherence to guidelines. Stéphane supervises masters and doctoral projects in a range of areas including critical care and infection prevention.

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