Pan European Networks: Science & Technology
06
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On the most recent European Antibiotic
Awareness Day (EAAD) on 16 November 2012,
at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, we
targeted consumers in the countries of the
European Region – a large Europe made up
of 53 countries from Ireland to the borders
of China – to behave responsibly and take
antibiotics only when and as prescribed by a
doctor. The EAAD is a European health initiative
co-ordinated by the European Centre for
Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and
the WHO has joined forces to extend it to all
countries in the region.
The food industry
Antibiotic resistance is a particular challenge to
food safety, and thus to public health. Antibiotics
are also used in agriculture for therapeutic and
prophylactic purposes, as well as for growth-
promotion. Although now banned in the European
Union, this latter practice is still common in
many countries around the world, driving
antibiotic resistance in pathogens that can
subsequently be transmitted to humans through
food, the environment or direct contact. In some
countries, antibiotic use in food animals even
seems to outweigh their use in humans, and what
is worse is that the same classes of antibiotics
are used for both humans and food animals.
This is completely beyond the control of the
consumers and ultimately can result in human
infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that
can be difficult, or even impossible, to cure.
Regulating the use of antibiotics in food animals
and promoting preventive veterinary medicine
and the prudent use of antibiotics is an essential
part of containing resistance. Farmers, local
veterinarians and veterinary and food safety
authorities have an important role to play since
they can help to preserve the power of antibiotics
at the origin of the food chain. Antibiotics should
be used only when they are needed and justified
for therapeutic reasons, and not otherwise.
Fighting the resistance
THE WHO’S
DR DANILO LO FO WONG
OUTLINES THE INCREASING PROBLEM OF
ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE, INCLUDING HOW, AT BOTH THE POLICY AND
RESEARCH LEVEL, EUROPE IS FIGHTING THE PROBLEM
T
he discovery of penicillin over 70 years ago set in motion a
medical revolution. Just three years after the first mass-
production of penicillin, resistant bacteria began to appear. This
phenomenon occurs in Nature; however it is dramatically accelerated
by any kind of antibiotic use, but especially misuse in people, animals
or plants.
We often fail to understand that antibiotics are powerful drugs, but they
are not the cure for all diseases. We disregard the fact that they fight
infections caused by bacteria, not infections caused by viruses like the
common cold, most sore throats, and the flu, and we overuse and misuse
them. A global WHO survey indicated that over half of all medicines –
including antibiotics – are prescribed, dispensed, or taken inappropriately.
As a consequence, most of the important bacterial infections throughout
Europe and the world are becoming resistant to antibiotics. They are crossing
borders and affect people in countries different than those they originate
from. They are causing more severe and longer-lasting diseases and may
lead to treatment failure. This results in increased hospitalisation rates,
deaths, and costs to society, and makes antibiotic resistance a pressing
public health problem requiring great consideration and urgent action.
Society as a whole is accountable to develop, spread, as well as contain,
antibiotic resistance. This is a matter for everybody; from those who set
policies and strategies, carry out research, and produce and distribute
antibiotics, to those who prescribe and use them.
Dr Danilo Lo Fo Wong,
WHO Europe
senior adviser on
antimicrobial resistance
©WHO/Europe
We often fail to
understand that
antibiotics are powerful
drugs, but they are not
the cure for all diseases
© Zebrac
ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE
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