On 8 September, 2016, the European Respiratory Society (ERS) participated in a high-level European public health policy conference entitled “Resistance: Antibiotics, Politics and Public Health.”
Organised by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the event brought together a broad range of stakeholders to discuss this multi-faceted and global health threat.
Predictions suggest that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) will cause over 10 million deaths annually by 2050 overtaking cancer as a major killer worldwide.
The conference touched on multiple aspects, including: socioeconomic, research, animal welfare, public health, and the particular role of Europe in addressing the threat of AMR.
Several sessions were held and it was acknowledged that AMR is a complex issue, which can only be solved using a community-based approach that involves shared responsibility across the entire health continuum, and creation of regional networks. There is also an urgent need to limit use of antibiotics world-wide.
The conference pushed for the European Commission to take stronger action and demonstrate continued commitment and leadership by developing a new European action plan on AMR.
In the first session on “Investing in public health: AMR as a case study”, Professor Giovanni Sotgiu, Secretary for the ERS Respiratory Infections Assembly, focused his talk on aspects of MDR/XDR-TB as a case in point. The treatment success for XDR-TB is very low at 40%, however new antibiotics cannot be the solution to the growing problem of resistance. Specifically, and in view of trying to achieve the goal of total TB elimination by 2050 – he urged for a need to scale up new public health strategies and to address issues such as poverty.
In the case of TB, Professor Sotgiu summarised the main healthcare needs as: (i) sustainably-resourced national TB programmes; (ii) adequate guidelines; (iii) education and training of health professionals; (iv)improved treatment monitoring/adherence; and (v) better knowledge in applying correct dosage/combination. Other important tools at the European level are the ERS/uropean Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) standards for TB care and the new WHO strategy on TB.
Dominique Monnet, Head of Programme Antimicrobial Resistance, ECDC), provided an overview of the ECDC mandate, its fundamental role being in the field of surveillance (of communicable diseases) with several networks already set up such as: EARS-NET on antimicrobial resistance; ESAC-NET on antibiotic consumption; and HIA-NET on healthcare associated infections and Ab-use in acute care hospitals. ECDC has also set up an online resources directory to assist and guide Member States.
Monnet also highlighted that the mandate ‘infection control’ still sits with the EU Member States. His top 3 wishes on curbing AMR were: (1) the need for all healthcare workers in hospitals to adhere to minimum standards; (2) the need to educate all children in schools about AMR; and (3) the need to implement hand-hygiene.