Antibiotic Resistance in Europe: A Growing Health Threat

EU antibiotic resistanceResistance to broad-spectrum antibiotics is rising in Europe. This is concluded in a new report on antimicrobial resistance written by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Resistance to antibiotics poses a severe health threat to patients in Europe, the authors of the report state.

This report was published by the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) last January. EARS-Net is the most important surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance in the EU. All 28 EU members and Iceland and Norway participate in EARS-net. The report bases its conclusions on data on antimicrobial resistance from invasive isolates reported to EARS-net in 2016. A trend analyses was performed on data reported for the period 2012-2015.

The results are worrying: gram-negative bacteria, in particular, show high resistance percentages all over Europe. What’s more, these percentages are rising. Another worrisome finding is that in many cases, gram-negative bacteria show resistance to multiple types of antibiotics, thereby limiting treatment options. As a result of this, the last-resort antimicrobial agent carbapenem is used more and more often, resulting to an increasing resistance rate to carbapenem as well.

Additionally, antimicrobial resistance levels were found to vary by geographic region. In general, lower resistance percentages were reported by countries in the north of Europe, while higher percentages were seen in countries toward the south and east. Most likely, these results are related to differences in antimicrobial use, infection prevention, infection control practices and healthcare utilisation patterns in these countries.

Antimicrobial agents are of great importance in treating invasive bacterial infections. Without effective antibiotics, such infections are often fatal. It is therefore extremely important that the ongoing increase in antimicrobial resistance is stopped. According to the authors of the report, prudent antimicrobial use and comprehensive infection prevention and control strategies targeting all healthcare sectors are the cornerstones of effective interventions aiming to stop this highly alarming trend. [1] [2]

[2] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Europe 2015. Annual Report of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net). Stockholm: ECDC; 2017