• The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control warns of “worrying increases” in the number of deaths

    • Brussels plans to submit a proposal to review pharmaceutical legislation in the first half of 2023

    Every year more than 35,000 people die in Europe as a consequence of infections related to resistant superbugs to the medicines antibiotics, according to the latest estimates of European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The figure represents a significant increase over previous estimates. “We’re seeing worrisome increases in the number of deaths attributable to infections with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, especially those that are resistant to last-line antimicrobial treatment,” admitted ECDC Director, Andrea Ammonon the eve of the European Day for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, which is celebrated on December 18.

    The European Commission acknowledges that antimicrobial resistance is one of the “biggest risks” to human health – costing an additional €1.5 billion in health spending and lost productivity, according to the OECD– and one of the three main threats to health according to the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority. Hence the intention of Brussels to present a proposal for a recommendation to review pharmaceutical legislation in the first half of 2023. Within the framework of the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU has also mobilized more than 690 million to support research and innovation in antimicrobial resistance.

    Behind this bulky number hide nothing more and nothing less than 100 deaths a day and a huge lack of knowledge among the European population about the power of antibiotics. Half, according to a Eurobarometer of the European Commission carried out between February and March of this year and published this Thursday, continues to mistakenly believe that antibiotics kill viruses and only 3 out of 10 know that their unnecessary use makes them ineffective, that taking them should only stop once all the treatment has been completed, they often cause side effects and are not effective against colds.

    “Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. The excessive use of antibiotics feeds the resistance of bacteria to our drugs. This is the reason why antimicrobial resistance is often considered as the next big health crisis”recalled the health commissioner, Stella Kyriakideswhich has encouraged citizens and health professionals to work in the collective effort to fight against “the silent pandemic” What is antimicrobial resistance? From reducing unnecessary use to improving infection prevention and control practices, designing and implementing antimicrobial stewardship programs, and ensuring adequate microbiological capacity at the national level.

    Growing trend

    Overall, the latest data show significantly increasing trends in both the number of infections and deaths attributable to almost all combinations of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, especially in healthcare settings. In 2021, for example, the number of reported cases of species of Acinetobacter resistant to different groups of antimicrobials was more than double (+121%) than the 2018-2019 average. There was also a significant increase in cases of Krebsiella pneumoniae resistant to carbapenems -an antibiotic that is usually used as a last resort against pathogens that are difficult to eradicate in healthcare settings- with increases of 31% in 2020 and 20% in 2021.

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    Another worrying fact is the increase in reported cases of Candida auris – a pathogen that causes outbreaks of invasive healthcare-associated infections and can be resistant to multiple antifungal agents – which doubled between 2020 and 2021 and was considerably higher than in previous years.

    An evolution that clashes with the 23% decrease in the total consumption of antimicrobial drugs registered in the period 2012-2021. Despite this achievement, in the same period there was an increase in use of broad-spectrum antibioticsparticularly in hospitals, and the use of reserve antibiotics, those used as a last resort to treat confirmed or suspected multi-resistant infections, doubled.