Photo Bert de Jong
Health and agriculture sectors unite against ‘silent killer’
European countries will jointly tackle antimicrobial resistance in the health and agriculture sectors. That is the outcome of the European ministerial conference on antimicrobial resistance held in Amsterdam on 10 February 2016. Edith Schippers, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Martijn van Dam, Minister for Agriculture, hosted the conference, which was attended by government representatives and experts from 28 EU member states.
The Netherlands brought together health and agriculture ministers for the first time in the history of the European Union to discuss the threat of antimicrobial resistance. This multi-level ‘One Health’ approach makes clear how crucial it is for the two sectors to take joint action in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Besides representatives from 28 member states, the delegates included officials from WHO (World Health Organisation), FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), the European Commission and non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway.
Prevention and restraint
During her speech Edith Schippers warned that the world risked losing one of the most precious drugs in history. ‘Antimicrobial resistance doesn’t make headlines like Zika and Ebola do. Nevertheless, it is slowly undermining our healthcare, silently killing more than 25,000 European citizens each year who die from bacterial infections that can’t be treated. After all the paperwork that has been done already, it’s now time for action. Let’s not conclude in ten years’ time that we have failed.’
Amongst other solutions, the minister urged better prevention of infections and more restraint in the use of antibiotics. She said that new antibiotics also need to be developed, along with alternatives to antibiotics, while better diagnostic techniques will enable these drugs to be used more effectively and sparingly. European countries also need to make better use of existing scope for European cooperation in transboundary threats to health.
Healthcare and livestock care
Martijn van Dam called for a drastic reduction in the use, for livestock, of antibiotics critical for human health. He also stressed the importance of a joint approach. ‘It’s not just about a common strategy in health care and agriculture, but also about cooperation between individual countries. Bacteria don’t stop at borders.’ Other countries endorsed the ministers’ call to action.