Multidrug Antibiotic Resistance Increases in Europe

EU - On the occasion of the 5th edition of the European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) released new EU-wide data on antibiotic resistance and consumption.
calendar icon 20 November 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Antibiotic resistance still remains a major European and global public health problem and is, for a large part, driven by misuse of antibiotics. ECDC data show that over the last four years there has been a significant increasing trend of combined resistance to multiple antibiotics in both Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli in more than one-third of the EU/EEA countries. In several Member States, between 25 per cent and up to more than 60 per cent of Klebsiella pneumoniaefrom bloodstream infections show combined resistance to multiple antibiotics. Options for treatment of patients who are infected with such multidrug-resistant bacteria are limited to only few last-line antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance is still a very serious threat to the health of European citizens because it leads to increasing healthcare costs, extra length of stay in the hospital, treatment failures, and sometimes death.

Speaking at a press event organised by ECDC and the European Commission in Brussels, ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said: "ECDC data show that over the last several years, there has been a Europe-wide increase of antibiotic resistance and of multidrug resistance in Gram-negative bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli (E.coli). This means that, for patients who are infected with these bacteria, few last-line antibiotics, like carbapenems, remain available."

Furthermore, ECDC data show that consumption of carbapenems – a major last-line class of antibiotics – increased significantly in EU/EEA countries from 2007 to 2010. This is the likely consequence of increasing multidrug resistance in Gram-negative infections, such as bloodstream infections or pneumonia, since carbapenems are often used to treat such infections. However, the percentage of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae is already high and increasing in some countries in the EU.

He added: "There are, in contrast, some good news: in the past few years, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has shown either a decrease or a stabilisation in most EU countries. Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant, as the percentage of Staphylococcus aureus resistant to methicillin remains above 25 per cent in more than one-quarter of the reporting countries, mainly in Southern and Eastern Europe."

Speaking about the European Commission's Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance adopted last year, Mrs Testori Coggi, Director General of DG Health & Consumers, added: "In order to successfully address antimicrobial resistance, we need to tackle the problem in a comprehensive approach, in which all relevant parties and stakeholders live up to their responsibility to combat this serious health threat in their respective areas. Therefore, there is no hierarchy of actions in the Action Plan, as all aspects are interrelated. Notably, the promotion of prudent use of antibiotics both in human and veterinary medicine, the development of new antimicrobial products and prevention of infections must proceed in parallel."

Robert-Jan Smits, Director-General for Research & Innovation at the European Commission explained: "The worrying growth of antibiotic resistance identified by ECDC calls for a dedicated research effort. We therefore have invested this year more money than ever into research on antimicrobial resistance, to keep our ability to fight deadly infections. We are working together with EU member states and the industry to use existing antimicrobials more intelligently and to develop urgently needed new antibiotics."

Mr Sprenger added: "Tackling a complex issue such as antibiotic resistance requires a multi-faceted approach that the European Commission already laid down in its Action Plan last year. We must continue working on those actions together. Furthermore, it is crucial to join forces around the world and mark global solidarity against this threat. This year WHO/Europe is supporting the initiative and a range of activities have also been organised this week in the United States, in Canada and in Australia. Wherever we are on this planet and whatever our occupation, each of us has a role to play in keeping antibiotics working. ECDC will continue to keep it at the forefront of our minds with good quality scientific data and our commitment to the European Antibiotic Awareness Day."

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