What do they do? (Part 1)

5 examples of what EU research and innovation projects have done for you lately

Stopping “superbugs”

Microbes (bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms) are evolving resistance to a growing number of treatments. This resistance is known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR is spreading, not only in bacterial diseases such as TB but also in viruses such as HIV and in parasites such as Malaria. This resistance substantially deteriorates a patient’s prognosis and is responsible for around 25,000 deaths each year in the EU alone. But it also has large economic costs: causing longer, more complicated illnesses which in turn require more expensive treatments and cause a greater burden on the patient, healthcare system and society. On average, this increases hospitalised patient costs by thousands of euros.

The spread of AMR has been accelerated through inadequate infection control, vaccination and hygiene, as well as in the manufacturing, prescription, use and disposal of antimicrobial drugs – for humans and other animals. There are now bacteria which are resistant to all known antibiotic groups; and the evolutionary pressures which gave rise to AMR dictate that if business is usual is continued, we are set to lose in the arms race of AMR.

“The threat AMR poses is of major concern globally”, Keiji Fukuda, special representative for antimicrobial resistance at the World Health Organisation, says: “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” To promote and coordinate such multi-stakeholder action, the World Health Assembly adopted a Global Action Plan for antimicrobial resistance in May 2015, recognizing that there is a need for a “coherent, comprehensive and integrated approach at global, regional and national levels”. This was followed in October 2015 with the G7 health ministers signing the ‘Berlin Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance’: ensuring the “integrated involvement of all relevant sectors”. Industry followed suit at Davos 2016, signing a ‘Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance’: calling for the “extension of collaborative initiatives between industry, academia and public bodies”.

At the European Level, the Commission will soon be launching its new AMR action plan: encompassing all sectors involved in human and veterinary development, manufacture, use and disposal of antimicrobials. In 2013, the EU “Joint Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance: State of Play of the 5-year Action Plan”, concluded that more needed to be done and that “A holistic approach and global cooperation are two of the most essential elements” in tackling AMR.

Whilst the EU has been successful in generating awareness and action towards reducing our overuse of antibiotics, AMR is still winning this race and much more urgently needs to be done.