Brussels, 17 March 2006
A new scientific network is launched today, supported by the EU’s Research Framework Programme, to tackle the increasing problem of resistance to antibiotics when dealing with lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. This Network of Excellence, GRACE, will pool European expertise and excellence in this field to increase knowledge, ensure the practical application of any research findings, develop new diagnostic tests and improve education and training. The network brings together 17 academic groups, from 9 EU Member States. Respiratory tract infections affect millions of people every year, particularly the very young and the elderly and entail a major cost to European society.
European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik welcomed this new research network, saying “We know that there is growing concern among the public about rising rates of antibiotic resistance to illnesses that affect many of us every year. GRACE is a good example of research tackling the issues that matter to people. By pooling our excellence at European level, we have a much better chance of finding answers more quickly.”
Antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use vary widely within and between European countries, but there is general agreement that the over-prescription of antibiotics to tackle illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia is contributing to the rise of resistance to these medicines in the organisms that cause these diseases. To take the example of acute bronchitis, this illness affects over 16 million people per year, and 70 to 90% of them are prescribed antibiotics for it. In the absence of clear guidelines on antibiotic use based on robust science, it is left to doctors to make decisions on their own.
So the GRACE (Genomics to Combat Resistance against Antibiotics in Community-acquired LRTI in Europe) Network will seek to provide better information for doctors and patients about antibiotic use. It will link scientific research centres of excellence and primary care networks throughout Europe, including internationally recognised leaders in fields such as basic medical sciences including genomics, applied laboratory sciences, primary health care including general practice, hospital medical practice, epidemiology, communication sciences, information technology, health economics, modelling and professional training and development. Such a comprehensive network will cement Europe’s position as an international leader in the field of research into respiratory infections.
The GRACE network will not only co-ordinate research, but will also address the best possible use of results, through the involvement of small and medium-sized companies that can help to develop bed-side diagnostic tools. It will also address the need to provide proper information and training for healthcare professionals through both web-based teaching and practical courses. Looking further into the future, GRACE will be in a position to address many other future research issues and conduct clinical trails such as epidemiological studies on flu and many other emerging infectious diseases, studying rapid diagnostic testing, evaluating new antibiotics, antivirals, and vaccines. This could potentially lead to a virtual “European Lower Respiratory Tract Infection Research Centre”.
The network will receive €11.5 million from the EU’s Research
Framework Programme and will run until at least 2011.