Knowledge, funding and action needed to keep antimicrobials working


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is widespread in the WHO European Region. Each year, more than 670,000 infections occur in the countries of the European Union / European Economic Area (EU / EEA) due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and around 33,000 people die as a direct consequence of these infections.

For non-EU countries and the easternmost part of the WHO European Region, this number may be even higher, but there is insufficient data to provide a clear picture of the situation.

In EU / EEA countries, the health burden of AMR is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV / AIDS combined, according to estimates by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) .

Urgent action is therefore required from individuals, physicians and governments to ensure that common diseases remain treatable.

“COVID-19 has hit us hard. But while battling a health emergency, we cannot lower our guard in tackling other health threats. Six years ago, AMR was declared one of the main threats to human health and the WHO Global Plan of Action on Antimicrobial Resistance was developed. But awareness and a sense of urgency are still lacking among politicians and in countries around the world, ”said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

“Despite the focus on the ongoing pandemic, we must continue our efforts to further reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics,” said Andrea Ammon, Director of ECDC. “We also need to improve infection prevention and control practices in hospitals and other health care facilities to dramatically reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. “

Planning improved but implementation hampered by lack of data and funds

Most Member States in the WHO European Region have recognized the need for action and have stepped up their efforts to combat AMR; 85% of countries in the Region have developed national action plans on antimicrobial resistance – 5 years ago, this figure was 50%.

However, plans alone are not enough, the challenge ahead is to ensure full implementation and adequate funding for action plans. As many as 20% of countries report having no capacity to generate antimicrobial resistance surveillance data or only collect antimicrobial resistance data at the local level and without a standardized or harmonized approach. Without this data, it is difficult to know the extent of the problem and find appropriate solutions.

Advocating for the wise use of antimicrobials

Global Antimicrobial Awareness Week is celebrated annually from November 18-24 with the aim of raising awareness of the threat of AMR and encouraging best practices to combat its spread.

On the occasion of Global Antimicrobial Awareness Week, we take a look at some of the efforts countries in the Region are making to fight AMR.

  • In Armenia, the development of clinical guidelines for primary health care physicians has increased the likelihood that antimicrobials will be used correctly.
  • In Italy, a “One Health” approach is used to combat AMR, combining human health and animal health under its Ministry of Health.
  • In Ukraine, a digital marketing campaign is raising awareness among target groups about the appropriate use of antibiotics, prompting them to see a doctor first about antibiotics, instead of self-diagnosing.


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