Brussels, 18 November – Today marks the 6th European Antibiotic Awareness Day (1), an initiative to raise awareness on antibiotic resistance (AMR), one of today’s most serious public health threats not only in Europe but worldwide. Over recent decades, growing mobility of the global population has increased the risk and incidence of cross-border diseases, and antimicrobials have been instrumental in preventing and treating such infections.
AMR results from the overuse or misuse of antimicrobials to treat infections - the more an antimicrobial is employed to fight an infection the faster the infection will mutate into a resistant strain. As AMR makes even common diseases unresponsive to traditional treatments, it poses a serious threat to public health, as demonstrated by the proliferation of regional and global pandemics.
Around 25,000 patients die every year as a result of infections caused by bacteria that exhibit AMR (2). In addition to its human cost, the loss of productivity and increase in healthcare expenditure cost EU health systems approximately €1.5 billion per year (3). “If we do not act now, the increase of AMR incidence in an ever growing range of diseases will lead us into an age in which health systems in Europe and beyond are unable to cope with minor infections, let alone organ transplantation complications,” said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA).
Only half of all antimicrobials developed are for use in people (4). In veterinary medicine antimicrobials are used more and more as growth promoters and to prevent or treat infectious diseases in livestock. Whilst the transmission of AMR from animals to humans remains the subject of scientific investigation, the interaction between the two should not be overlooked. Tackling the severe and urgent threat of AMR requires coherent approaches from different policy fields as well as from practitioners, patients, involved industries and the public health community as a whole. Moreover, a new front in the fight against AMR has recently opened in the ongoing negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US. If not adequately unaddressed, this pact could dilute European standards on meat and poultry production, including those regulating the use of antimicrobials in industrial farming. (5)
“ Largely caused by the overuse of antibiotics, AMR exposes a clash between business interests and public health goals. We need urgent and coherent responses from decision makers at both European and national level before we are pushed into a pre-antibiotic era ,” concluded Ms Kosińska.
(1) A leading initiative promoted by the European Centre for disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) consists of a number of activities taking place across Europe to spread the messages on the risks associated with inappropriate use of antibiotics.
(3) European Commission’s report, “EU Research on Antimicrobial Resistance. EU projects 2007-2010” and EPHA position on AMR. For further information, see the EPHA open letter on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) to EU Commissioner for Health and Consumers.
(5) EPHA comment: EU-US trade agreement: Would it benefit Europe’s public health?
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator, on +32 2 233 38 76 or firstname.lastname@example.org