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By Christiane Vogel, Policy Assistant and Sascha Marschang, Director of Operations and Membership

Under the banner of “Keep Antibiotics Working”, the 2017 European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) took place on 15 November in Brussels. The event, hosted by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), attracted over 150 participants from all over Europe joining forces in raising awareness about prudent use of antibiotics and the growing threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Marking the 10th anniversary of EAAD, it reminded all stakeholders that now is the time for critical action to #KeepAntibioticsWorking.

During the first session the current AMR situation in Europe was portrayed by speakers from both DG SANTE and DG Research & Innovation in the European Commission, the ECDC and the World Health Organisation. Key messages related to Europe’s current status included the stabilising resistance of Klebsiella pneumoniae, although combined resistance still continues to increase in certain countries. Incidence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) decreased significantly at EU/EEA level between 2013 and 2016, but nonetheless MRSA continues to be a public health priority as ten out of thirty countries reported percentages of resistance above 25%.  ECDC Director Andrea Ammon emphasised the ongoing need for “Collaboration, cooperation and coordination. We should learn from each other and inspire each other with the good ideas that we have. Keep on going and keep antibiotics working.” EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis signalled a paradigm shift, calling on Commissioners in other policy areas – agriculture, environment, development – to get involved in the EAAD. Nedret Emiroglu of the WHO emphasised the value of prevention: “every infection prevented is an antibiotic treatment avoided”.

The second session focused on the role of the member states and EU agencies. Marie-Cécile Ploy, representing the newJoint Action on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare-associated Infections led by France, promised to provide a stakeholder forum around the issue while also underlining the powerful force of collaboration at national level. Senior agency representatives presented the findings of the second Joint Interagency Report (JIACRA) by ECDC, the European Medicines Agency and the European Food Safety Agency, which includes an analysis of antimicrobial consumption and AMR prevalence in bacteria from humans and food-producing animals. The three Executive Agencies released a Joint Scientific Opinion on a list of harmonised outcome indicators on surveillance and consumption in both sectors.

Healthcare professionals are a key target for the 2017 campaign, so a call for better AMR education and training of healthcare professionals was made as a key action for preparing the next generation. The statement “If germs managed to learn how to resist antibiotics, then so can you!” resonated strongly. Representatives of the nursing profession expressed their wish for more support and fit-for-purpose policies.

Alongside other AMR stakeholders, EPHA prepared a statement reflecting the voice of its diverse membership, and calling for strong EU support, including dedicated AMR resources, for the implementation of the new EU One Health Action Plan in line with the recommendations of EPHA’s Position Paper on AMR. This was also echoed by a representative from Bulgaria who explained that there were multiple health system challenges that needed to be overcome, requiring additional support. Tackling AMR is also crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While there was much to celebrate since the first EAAD, it is clear there is still much to do to ensure we can #KeepAntibioticsWorking.

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