Brussels, 15 November 2013
European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2013: EU steps up its fight against drug-resistant bacteria
A survey1 published by the European Commission today reveals a decrease in antibiotic use in humans since 2009 and growing public awareness that antibiotics do not kill viruses. However, this positive news is overshadowed by data released in parallel by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showing a marked increase in Europe of multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria resistant to the carbapenems – last-line antibiotics used to treat healthcare associated infections. The Commission is therefore stepping up the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through the funding of 15 new research projects (MEMO/13/996) and harmonised rules on the collection of data on AMR linked to animals and food (MEMO/13/994).
European Commissioner for Health, Mr Tonio Borg said: "I am deeply concerned about the fact that antibiotics, which have allowed us to treat previously deadly bacterial infections and save many lives, are now becoming less and less effective. I cannot stress enough how seriously the Commission takes the challenge posed by antimicrobial resistance. The Commission remains fully committed to pursuing its Action Plan to address antimicrobial resistance both in people and in animals in a co-ordinated manner".
European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, added: "Research and innovation are essential if we are to turn the tide against antimicrobial resistance. These new projects will add to the excellent work on-going to develop new drugs and treatments. I am particularly pleased that so many small companies are partners in these projects – something I want to see right across the new EU research programme, Horizon 2020."
Action Plan: state-of-play
The Commission's November 2011 Action Plan2 to prevent the further spread of antimicrobial resistance sets out seven key areas where measures are most necessary: 1) making sure antimicrobials are used appropriately both in humans and animals; 2) preventing microbial infections and their spread; 3) developing new effective antimicrobials or alternatives for treatment; 4) cooperating with international partners to contain the risks of AMR; 5) improving monitoring and surveillance in human and animal medicine; 6) research and innovation; and 7) communication, education and training. Two years into the five year plan, significant advances have been made in most areas, notably:
Research and innovation: The EU has invested some € 800 million in AMR-related research, including through the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The Commission today announces the launch of 15 new research projects for a total EU budgetary contribution of €91 million. The projects, involving some 44 small and medium-sized enterprises as well as universities and other research organisations, will develop new antimicrobials or alternatives such as phages and vaccines. They will also address antibiotic resistance within the food chain and investigate nanotechnologies that could deliver antimicrobial drugs.
Improving monitoring and surveillance: Much effort has been put into strengthening and consolidating the surveillance systems on antimicrobial consumption and resistance in the veterinary sector. A Commission Decision, published this week, sets out rules on harmonised data collection on AMR in animals and food. This is important for the comparability of data between Member States for both the human and veterinary sector and for evaluating the measures taken.
Appropriate use of antibiotics in humans and in animals: Several projects funded under the Health Programme address, for example, misuse of antimicrobial agents in human medicine, awareness of stakeholders – doctors, farmers, pharmacists and patients - and sales of antimicrobials without a prescription. Furthermore, the Commission is in the last phase of the revision of the legal tools for veterinary medicinal products and medicated feed which will address AMR in these areas.
Preventing microbial infections and their spread: In May of this year, the Commission adopted a proposal for a single, comprehensive animal health law which focuses on prevention of diseases, which would reduce the need for antibiotics. On the human health side, on-going projects and actions co-funded by the Health Programme support the implementation of the Council Recommendation on patient safety, including healthcare associated infections.
For more information on the implementation of the AMR Action Plan see the Roadmap.
Antimicrobials comprise antibiotics, which are essential medicines for humans and animals, and can also be used as disinfectants, antiseptics and other hygiene products. They have substantially decreased the threat of infectious diseases. Antibiotics are an indispensable tool in medicine and are used in procedures such as transplantation and chemotherapy.
However, over the years bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. This resistance has manifested itself in hospital-acquired infections, respiratory tract infections, meningitis, diarrhoeal diseases and sexually transmitted infections. Resistant bacteria can be transferred from animals to humans via the food chain or through direct contact.
Since the 1990s, when AMR was recognised as a serious threat to public health, the Commission has launched various initiatives and actions across sectors, i.e. human and veterinary medicine, food and feed and scientific research. The 2011 Action Plan is the latest in a series of measures taken by the Commission to tackle AMR.
For more information please see:
Commissioner Borg's website:
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn's website:
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Special Eurobarometer survey on Antimicrobial Resistance: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/whatsnew2013_en.htm
Commission Communication (748/2011) "Action plan against the rising threats from Antimicrobial Resistance" http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/docs/communication_amr_2011_748_en.pdf