16 November 2009

Antibiotic resistance: international news

Constant readers, we've often talked about MRSA and other resistant pathogens as a global problem (cf. these posts for resistance issues in Europe and these for resistance around the world).

But now there has been formal recognition that resistant bacteria respect no borders. On Nov. 3, the US government and the European Union signed an agreement to form a joint task force to investigate and combat antibiotic resistance. From the Joint Declaration, posted on WhiteHouse.gov:
[We therefore agree}... To establish a transatlantic task force on urgent antimicrobial resistance issues focused on appropriate therapeutic use of antimicrobial drugs in the medical and veterinary communities, prevention of both healthcare- and community-associated drug-resistant infections, and strategies for improving the pipeline of new antimicrobial drugs, which could be better addressed by intensified cooperation between us.
You may not have heard much about it here, but in Europe, this declaration was big news. Here's a story from the Swedish newspaper Arbetarbladet (Sweden currently holds the EU Presidency) and another from the Irish Times. But while it merited barely a blink in the US mainstream media, US nonprofits were deeply involved in the declaration, notably the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the Pew Charitable Trusts:
"Antimicrobial resistance and the lack of new antimicrobial agents to effectively treat resistant infections are problems that no country can deal with alone -- they threaten the very foundation of medical care," said Richard Whitley, MD, FIDSA, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). "Without effective antimicrobial drugs, modern medical treatments such as operations, transplants, intensive care, cancer treatment and care of premature babies will become very risky if not impossible." Dr. Whitley joined with Javier Garau, MD, president of European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) and Shelley A. Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group in welcoming the multi-country initiative.
..."Antibiotic resistant bacteria respect no political borders, so we must work together to combat them," Dr. Hearne said. "Resistance takes a terrible toll on health worldwide and is measured in lives lost, greater suffering and higher health care costs. One way that U.S. leaders can demonstrate their commitment to solving this issue is by immediately joining the EU in banning non-judicious antibiotic uses in food animal production." (Pew press release)
This fresh focus on the problem of resistance will be sharpened in Europe this week with the celebration of European Antibiotic Awareness Day. (We should be so lucky.) More on that on Wednesday.

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