European Antibiotic Awareness Day – a call to action

Every year, on 18 November, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control raises the awareness about the use of antibiotics. The campaign’s focus is on the One Health approach: recognising the link between the use of antibiotics in humans and animals and the incidence of antibiotics in the environment is the basis for cross-sectoral measures and new priorities in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

18 November – the European Antibiotic Awareness Day of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – is focused on the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This year for the third time, also the World Health Organization (WHO) holds the World Antibiotic Awareness Week from 13 to 17 November. Resistances to antibiotics – a process in which bacteria develop defence strategies that render antibiotics ineffective – have long been a global problem. Worldwide, 700 000 people die every year from infections with resistant pathogens; Europe alone witnesses around 25 000 deaths due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) each year. In Europe, the excess costs for health care and the annual productivity loss are approximately EUR 1.5 billion.

Acting across sectors

No matter what factors eventually have caused the downward spiral of the antibiotics’ efficacy – the wrong use in human medicine, the large-scale use in livestock breeding, or both – the increasing number of bacteria that are resistant to previously effective and badly needed medicines require an efficient approach.

In 2015, WHO together with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adopted the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. Based on the WHO Action Plan and the One Health approach, the EU this year published its European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance. The plan focuses on strategies that are particularly promising in terms of containing antibiotic resistance:

  • promote the prudent use of antimicrobials;
  • improve the cross-sectoral co-operation between human and veterinary medicine and agriculture;
  • improve infection control measures;
  • continually monitor AMR and antimicrobial consumption.
The improper use of antibiotics has lead to resistances throughout the world

The next five years

An efficient infection protection is the precondition for patient safety

Efficient measures to fight antibiotic resistance that have an immediate effect can also be implemented beyond “big politics”, for example at clinic level. And in its current antibiotic resistance campaign, WHO emphasises that “every infection prevented is an antibiotic treatment”.

In November 2017, WHO published the “Global infection prevention and control priorities 2018-22: a call for action”, specifying the most important infection control measures for the next five years.

Together with the global network of those responsible for infection control, WHO identifies the following priorities for facilities that already have implemented infection protection programmes:

  • increased accountability with infection prevention and control (IPC) as a quality indicator
  • development of advanced information technology tools to support IPC monitoring and implementation
  • translation of information through enhanced communications to sustain awareness and engagement
  • credible incentives considering the local context to increase compliance rates
  • enhanced education and training to embed IPC knowledge across all disciplines.

The new priorities of WHO and Global Infection Prevention Controllers (GPIC) complement the existing WHO guidelines and primarily address decision-makers. Their implementation is fundamental. The reason: an efficient infection protection is the precondition to protect patients around the globe, for example against multidrug-resistant pathogens.
The new General-Director of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, summed it up as follows: “Strong health systems are our best defence to prevent disease outbreaks from becoming epidemics.”

European Commission (2017). A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Accessed on 14 November 2017.
Allegranzi B. Global infection prevention and control priorities 2018–22: a call for action. Volume 5, No. 12, e1178–e1180, December 2017