By Emily Pieterse, Policy Assistant, EPHA
In the week of the release of the new EU Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance two conferences were organised by the European Parliament, to discuss how the new plan will be followed-up by actions from all committed stakeholders.
The first conference – Preserving the old, creating the new: how to avoid the antimicrobial resistance doomsday scenario? brought some valuable insights. Several speakers, including EPHA’s Nina Renshaw, highlighted how surveillance and monitoring of antibiotic use is not being exploited to the best advantage, and will only become more useful when people are given benchmarking figures and feedback. It is also important to invest in hygiene precautions and staff specialised in infection control, as consumption rates in hospitals are still rising across Europe. Furthermore, there is a need for a new business model for the development of new antibiotics, not based on sales volumes and with better incentives, while investment in the promotion and development of rapid diagnostic testing will lead to more tailored use of antibiotics.
The second conference a day later – Scientific, human health, husbandry, and socio-economic aspects of antibacterial resistance: time to act organised by PA international more successfully highlighted the human impact of AMR. Susan Fallon, (MRSA Action UK), candidly recounted her personal story about her daughter who, although she died by an infection caused by MRSA, the cause of death was noted as major organ failure. According to Mark Sprenger, Director of the AMR Secretariat of the World Health Organization, bacteria are often not recognised as the cause of death and so questioned whether the statistics quoted are just the tip of the iceberg.
Representatives from the animal husbandry sector called for better data collection and more research on the contribution of the food and agriculture industries to AMR –not referred to currently in the WHO global action plan. Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan highlighted the growing problem of AMR in developing countries – due to increasing globalisation, resistant bacteria can spread within a few years across the world, becoming resistant much faster than 30 years ago.
Both conferences provided the opportunity for the Commission to present the new EU Action Plan on AMR, comprising three pillars: making the EU a best practice region; boosting research, development and innovation; and shaping the global agenda on AMR. Invited to respond at the first conference, EPHA Secretary General Nina Renshaw raised her concerns, calling for a good evaluation plan, with measurable and time-bound objectives, and the collection of comparable data across member states. She also urged the Commission to stop using figures that continue to underestimate the urgency and threat of AMR, and seeing the EU as a best practice region, as both best and worst practices can be found across the EU’s 28 national governments. Invest in areas that need it the most, so we can truly call the EU a best practice region.
With speakers from many different sectors – Commissioners, Parliamentarians, scientists, civil society – the conferences ensured all dimensions of the debate were addressed, but Europe is still far from tackling AMR with the sense of urgency the crisis requires.