Health ministers from member countries of the European Union (EU) have vowed to forge respective national plans to decrease the use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, to deal with increasing antimicrobial rates. The decision, in favor of improved antimicrobial resistance control, was made collectively by the 28 member countries at a recent EU meeting in Luxembourg.

The panel agreed on constructing national plans that would have measurable quantitative and qualitative goals to cut the use of unnecessary antimicrobials. The goals would also include ways to reduce infections that raise the demand of such drugs in the first place.

An important focus was legislation development and enforcement related to the issue regarding which \ministers also stressed the need for educational and awareness campaigns. All officials agreed on engaging the drug industry in a dialogue to keep existing effective antimicrobials in the market and also to explore other avenues of treatment.

EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said that he would like to see the EU emerge as the best practice region in the field of antimicrobial resistance. He pushed for additional research for the development of new antibiotics and alternatives for antimicrobials. He said, “The EU should continue its global involvement in fighting antimicrobial resistance.”

The current Dutch EU leadership has also made the lowering of antibiotic use as one of its main strategic goals.

Furthermore, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013, declared that the world is now in ‘post-antibiotic era’. This was seconded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014.

Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance shown by a microorganism against any drug which was previously effective against that particular disease-causing microorganism. This resistance is different from antibiotic resistance which refers particularly to ineffectiveness of antibiotics against bacteria-causing infection.

Antimicrobial resistance can potentially result in an inability to treat common infectious diseases caused by microorganisms which can also increase the risks of medical treatment procedures. Globally, such resistance is seen in diseases such as gonorrhea and urinary tract infections caused by bacteria.

Staphlylococcus aureus, a common widespread cause of hospital-acquired infection known as staph infection, is also exhibiting resistance to first line drugs used to treat it.

The drug resistant infection, commonly known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), has an incidence rate of 50 cases per 100,000 with 10-30% of patients acquiring this infection die.

Resistance by Tuberculosis bacteria, malaria, and HIV along with influenza is also on the rise according to WHO. This resistance leads to potential illnesses for longer periods of time, higher healthcare expenditures and greater risks of death.

All of the suggestions made in the meeting are in line with the existing EU action plan against anti-microbial resistance. The action plan was first developed after the European Parliament on May 12, 2011, adopted a non-legislative resolution on the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance and consequent treatment failures. The current plan comes to an end this year. According to the EU, the new action plan to replace the existing one is currently in development.

The EU will also present the agenda in the United Nations’ general assembly in September as part of the effort to fight antimicrobial resistance.

At least 2 million people acquire drug-resistant bacterial infections in the US alone and more than 23,000 people die due to a direct result of such infections. The action plan to combat this antimicrobial resistance was first developed in 1999 in the US while the 2012 update to the plan focuses on surveillance, research, prevention and control.

Key components of the plan include prudent use of antimicrobials, infection prevention and control in healthcare settings, development of new human antimicrobials, development of diagnostic tools, development of vaccines and other preventive measures, innovation, communication, education, training and evaluation.

Several steps to ensure the control of antimicrobial and antibiotic resistant organisms have been taken in the last few years. Previously, the 2014 Executive Order 13676 signed by the Obama Administration prioritized federal efforts to combat the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Also, the 2015 White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship focuses particularly on promoting and ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics. The White House has also issued National Strategy On Combating Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria. All of these policy statements agree with the EU Plan on how to deal with this global crisis.

Recent efforts in the UK have also been seen Prime Minister David Cameron announcing a review for brainstorming ideas on how to control this growing threat. The effort, commonly termed as O’Neill’s review, published its report last year and found that if no action is taken it would mean a loss of 10 million lives a year by 2050 and 69 trillion pounds per year.

Lord O’Neill reported that according to their analysis, one million people died due to such causes while they were doing this review. A proposal was made to ban doctors from prescribing antibiotics before performing tests. “We must stop treating antibiotics like sweets, which is what we are doing around the world today,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill is also working on taking the report to the UN general assembly to raise efforts to tackle this important issue.