Every year 25,000 people die in the EU from infections caused by superbugs. With resistance to antibiotics growing, find out how MEPs plan to fight it.
About 700,000 people die worldwide every year due to resistance to antibiotics and it is feared that by 2050 this resistance may cause more deaths than cancer. Not only bacteria can be resistant to drugs used to fight infections, but also other microbes, such as parasites, viruses and fungi.
What causes resistance to antibiotics?
Resistance to antimicrobials occurs naturally over time, but is accelerated by the misuse and over-use of antibiotics in human medicine and animal treatment, the transfer of resistant bacteria from animals to humans through direct contact or via the food chain, the release of antimicrobial substances into the environment, the improper disposal of unused medication into groundwater and the lack of development of new antibiotics.
Since 1999 the EU has invested more than €1.3 billion in research on this issue, but as antimicrobial resistance continues to increase, MEPs are calling for efforts to be intensified.
- Antimicrobials are active substances of synthetic or natural origin which kill or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms
- They include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiprotozoals
What are MEPs proposing?
Austrian S&D member Karin Kadenbach has written an own-initiative report on the new European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance. It was approved by MEPs on 13 September 2018.
The report stresses the need to take into account that the environment and people's and animals' health are interlinked and that diseases can be transmitted between different species. It also highlights the importance of the correct and prudent use of antimicrobials, call for illegal sales to be tackled as well as for restrictions on the sale of antibiotics by health professionals.
As the discovery and development of antibiotics has slowed over the past 20 years, investment in new substances should be stimulated. Rapid diagnostic tests that can determine if the cause of an infection is viral or bacterial should be made cheaper. In addition good hygiene should be promote and more awareness should be raised about the risk of over-prescription and self-mediation. According to a survey from 2016, 44% of European are unaware that antibiotics are ineffective against a cold or a flu.
Veterinary medicinal products
There are also plans for new EU rules to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming. Parliament has already provisionally agreed a deal with the Council, which was approved by the public health committee on 20 June. It will still need to be formally approved by all MEPs during an upcoming plenary session. French EPP member Françoise Grossetête is the MEP in charge of steering these rules through Parliament.
Under the plans, the preventive and collective use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry would be limited, while imported food products would have to be in line with EU standards on the use of antibiotics.