ghp December 2015 | 13 industry insight The ECDC’s Stance on Antimicrobial Resistance What is ECDC’s role in combating antimicrobial resist- ance? The mandate of ECDC is to identify and assess the risks of communicable diseases for EU citizens and communicate about these risks; this includes the area of antimicrobial resistance. Management of these risks as well as of the factors that contribute to control of communicable diseases are under the responsibility of each EU Member State. Activities related to this topic at ECDC, take place under the antimicrobial resistance and healthcare-as- sociated infections programme. ECDC’s main areas of work include surveillance, epidemic intelligence, developing evidence-based guidance and systematic reviews, training, support to the EU Member States and, on 18 November each year since 2008, coordi- nation of a European Antibiotic Awareness Day to raise awareness about antibiotic antimicrobial resistance and the need for prudent use of antibiotics. Considering the global scale of the problem, how do you believe organisations, Governments and businesses can work together to combat it? Tackling such a complex issue requires a multi-facet- ed ‘One Health’ approach, already laid down in 2011 in the European Commission’s action plan against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance. This action plan contains actions for implementation by the Commission with EU Member States and identifies areas where measures are needed such as monitoring and surveillance, research and innovation, and com- munication, education and training, amongst others. Partners and stakeholders must continue working on those actions and areas together. This means that everybody, including policy makers, health profession- als, patients, and governmental and non-governmental organisations, has a role to play in keeping antibiotics working. Our commitment, from ECDC’s perspective, is to keep prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance as one of our priorities. How serious is the problem of antimicrobial resistance? Treating infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a challenge: commonly used antibiotics are no longer effective and doctors must choose other antibiotics to treat infected patients. This may delay getting the right treatment to patients and may result in complications, including sometimes death. Also, a patient may need more care as well as alternative and more expensive antibiotics, which may have more severe side effects. And the situation is getting worse with the emergence of new bacterial strains resistant to several antibiotics at the same time (known as multidrug-resistant bacte- ria). A major antibiotic resistance problem, especially in hospitals, is the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics including last-line antibiotics, which therefore severely limits treatment options for infected patients. Such bacteria may eventually become resistant to all existing antibiotics. If this becomes the case, this would mean returning to the “pre-antibiotic era”, and organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and other medical procedures would no longer be possible. Bacterial dis- eases would spread and could no longer be treated. What can be done to solve the problem? ECDC has identified three main strategies to address antibiotic resistance. • Prudent use of antibiotics is the cornerstone of preventing the emergence and spread of resist- ance, since antibiotic resistance being reported across Europe is directly linked to antibiotic use. • Implementation of good infection control practic- es, including hand hygiene as well as the screen- ing and isolation of infected patients in hospitals, is essential to prevent the spread of resistant bacteria. • Promoting the development of new antibiotics with novel mechanisms of action is essential, as resistance inevitably builds over time. Proposing innovative incentives for the development of effec- tive antibiotics has been one of the priorities of the EU-US Transatlantic Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance (TATFAR). We speak to Dr Andrea Ammon, the European Centre for Dis- ease Prevention and Control’s Acting Director, on the issue of antimicrobial resistance and the initiatives they are using to prevent it.