Go back

Commission steps up war on bacteria

The European Commission has adopted an action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), pledging greater support for R&D.

The EU must play a leading role in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, the Commission stressed in its European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance, which it launched on 29 June. The plan has three pillars: making the EU a best-practice region, boosting R&D and innovation, and shaping global action.

Under the R&D pillar, the Commission said that greater efforts were needed to understand how resistance to antimicrobial treatments emerges and spreads. It pledged to support the development of diagnostic tools and treatments, as well as research into improved economic models and incentives for this kind of R&D.

But Helen Lambert, the AMR research champion for the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, said that the R&D pillar failed to mention studies into the social, cultural and organisational factors that influence AMR strategies across countries. “These factors powerfully influence the success of measures to limit AMR,” she said.

However, Lambert praised the strategy’s global focus. The document said that the EU would work with international organisations, including the World Health Organization, to encourage global action.

Activities to tackle AMR vary significantly between EU member states, the plan said. The Commission announced it would launch an initiative to support collaborative activities and policy development among member states, and develop training programmes for member state authorities.

Mark Woolhouse of the Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution at the University of Edinburgh welcomed the Commission’s “recognition that we need to coordinate action in multiple ways across multiple sectors”, including hospitals, farms, and veterinary clinics.

But Woolhouse said he was disappointed by the lack of concrete targets for reducing antibiotic consumption and resistance levels. “Without those targets, things become a bit soft. Unless you can demonstrate progress in real quantifiable terms it’s not actually clear what you’ve achieved.”

Also on 29 June, the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance—Europe’s public-private partnership on AMR research—accepted India, South Africa and Egypt as new members. These countries join Argentina, Canada, Israel and Japan as non-European members of the 26-country programme.

This article also appeared in Research Europe