Drug resistance

Ministerial Conference on Antibiotic Resistance

Joining Forces for Future Health

Date: 25-26 June 2014
Place: The Hague, The Netherlands

Global call made to take action on antimicrobial resistance
27 June 2014 ¦ Ministers of health and senior officials from 20 countries of all regions called yesterday for intensified political action to tackle the global threat of antimicrobial resistance, (AMR), which threatens effective prevention and treatment of more and more infections.

Antimicrobial resistant bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi, present a threat that has governments worldwide focusing more closely on this problem, which is so serious that it threatens the ability to practice modern medicine, including treatment of infections, many chronic diseases such as cancer, and the protection of those undergoing surgery.

“Antimicrobial resistance is not a future threat looming on the horizon. It is here, right now, and the consequences are devastating,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan at the opening of the two-day Ministerial Conference on Antibiotic Resistance in The Hague. “Our three agencies (WHO, FAO and OIE) face similar challenges, including poor surveillance in the health and animal sectors, weak laboratory support and, above all, the almost total absence of regulatory capacity in many countries.”

The conference issued a joint outcome statement from Ministers of Health and Ministers of Agriculture, titled Joining Forces for Future Health, which strongly supported the development of the AMR Global Action Plan and many specific actions.

The Netherlands Minister of Health Edith Schippers said: “The Global Action Plan needs a step-by-step approach to combat AMR, but this fight needs to start now. Experts know that AMR is a serious problem, but the people also have to become fully aware of the AMR story. It is clear that priorities and concerns vary across different countries, regions and sectors. But the human and animal health case, as well as the economic implications, have been made crystal clear by health leaders from around the world.”

Her Dutch agriculture ministry counterpart, Sharon Dijksma, said the fight against AMR requires a coordinated approach between health and livestock sectors on the effective use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, as well as improved infection prevention and surveillance of veterinarian use of antibiotics in animals.

The Hague event was organised by the Netherlands government and co-sponsored WHO. Participants included Ministers and high level representatives from Health and Agriculture and other key partners in the fight against AMR, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and OIE: The World Organisation for Animal Health, The European Commission and the World Bank. All spoke of the need for urgent global action to curb the AMR threat. Key points included:

  • There are linkages between antimicrobial use in animals and the threat of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals;
  • Full endorsement of the urgent need for a Global Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance, and for the United Nations General Assembly to stage a High-level Meeting on the issue in 2016;
  • Intensified action at national and regional levels to reduce the AMR threat;
  • Health ministers should lead a cross-governmental approach to AMR;
  • Because of AMR’s global threat, measures could be taken on the precautionary principle, even though scientific evidence for possible measures is not always available;
  • Improved hygiene, infection prevention monitoring and control programmes are essential for preventing AMR;
  • In the rearing of animals, the need for antimicrobials can be reduced by improved hygiene measures, management and vaccination;
  • A robust pipeline of new and next generation antibiotics is needed, as are the development and use of rapid, point-of-need diagnostics to identify and characterize bacterial resistance.

The direct impact of AMR is already very high and growing worse. In Europe alone, it is estimated that AMR kills 25 000 people annually and costs the economy €1.5 billion (US$2 billion). In 2012, there were about 450 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) worldwide – just one disease that had been long considered easily treatable with modern medicines.