Every year on 18 November, the European Antibiotic Awareness Day takes place, as well as World Antimicrobial Awareness Week from 18 to 24 November. These days are an opportunity to better inform the general public, healthcare professionals and animal owners about the ever-increasing risks associated with the inappropriate use of antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is a major health threat
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a bacterium to become resistant to one or more types of antibiotics. Therefore, it is not humans or animals that become resistant to antibiotic treatments, but bacteria that do. They can then cause infections in humans or animals that are more difficult to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
The increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is largely due to the repeated and inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans and animals. As a result of this resistance, the world is running out of effective antibiotics to treat certain infectious diseases.
This represents one of the greatest threats to public health in Europe, and "it is all the more important to change the way medicines are prescribed and used" warn the Minister of Health, Paulette Lenert, and the Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, Claude Haagen.
Antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality and morbidity. Currently, the European Union records more than 33,000 deaths per year due to infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria.
How can we help reduce antibiotic resistance?
Following the joint efforts of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, a National Antibiotic Plan developed for the period 2018 to 2022, has been readapted and extended to 2024. This plan is part of the so-called "One Health" approach, which consists of the development and implementation of programmes, policies, legislation and research in which several sectors communicate and collaborate to improve public health outcomes.
In addition, a communication campaign is planned during this November period to continue to raise awareness of the problem of antibiotic misuse among patients and animal keepers, as well as doctors and veterinarians.
Antibiotics should only be used to treat bacterial infections when prescribed by a qualified health professional. Self-medication for both humans and animals should be avoided. Antibiotic treatment should never be shared between several people and should be continued to the end. Antimicrobials should not be put aside for later use. Antibiotic treatment prescribed for humans should not be used in animals without veterinary advice.
This change in behaviour must also be accompanied by measures to reduce the spreading of infections, such as better vaccination coverage in human and veterinary medicine, regular hand washing and observing standard hygiene practices and good food hygiene.
Press release by the Ministry of Health