Marking European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) released new data showing that resistance to last-line antibiotics is growing in the European Union.
EMHF board member Peggy Maguire, Director General of the European Institute for Women's Health says: 'Antibiotics are an indispensible weapon in the fight against infections. Since the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s they have changed the face of infectious diseases. Antimicrobials have been a mainstay in combating infections such as pneumonia, respiratory track infections, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and hospital-acquired infections and are vital in reducing the risk of complex medical intervention such as hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and the care of premature babies. Additionally, antimicrobials are used in veterinary medicine and for other non-therapeutic purposes.
'Seventy years later, these advances are now threatened by the emergence and spread of microbes that are resistant to first choice medicines. Inappropriate use and over-use in people and animals, has created an enormous public health challenge. Bacteria have out-smartened science and become resistant.'
A joint technical report by ECDC and the European Medicines Agency estimates that 25,000 people die each year in the EU from infections caused by drug resistant bacteria. Related costs in healthcare expenses and loss of productivity amount to over 1.5 billion euro.
European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli said: 'We need to take swift and determined action if we do not want to lose antimicrobial medicines as essential treatment against bacterial infections in both humans and animals'.
European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan Quinn, added: 'Finding the next generation of antibiotics is crucial if we are to stay ahead of the curve in the face of bacteria and other pathogens which are resistant to drugs. Investment in research and innovation will mean the best possible care for patients, and the Commission is working with industry and EU Member States to make this a priority. This commitment will continue under Horizon 2020, our future funding programme for research and innovation.'
EU's 12 point plan
Sounding the alarm bells on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the European Commission released a comprehensive Action Plan. In Commissioner Dalli’s words 'The twelve concrete actions for the next five years, that we present today, could help limit the spread of antimicrobial resistance and help develop new antimicrobial treatment. Their success requires joined efforts from the EU, the Member States, healthcare professionals, industry, farmers and many others '.
Research investment in antimicrobials has been practically non-existent due to a lack of encouragement and incentives. Over the last decade there have been no more than 5 new antibiotics. Faced with this scientific challenge to find new medicines, research efforts under the Commission’s Research Framework programme FP7 and the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) will be stepped up.
'Meanwhile we all can and must play our part in helping to slow down antimicrobial resistance', said Peggy Maguire, 'Women and men can take an active role in promoting the prudent use of antibiotics in the family environment as well as insisting on such simple measures as thorough hand-washing or using one of the recommended cleansing agents'.