Every year, over 35,000 people in Europe die from an infection caused by a pathogen that no longer responds to drugs, and the number is increasing, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned on Thursday.
Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, for example, but if a bacterium becomes resistant to the antibiotics, they lose their effectiveness, making treatment more difficult. Resistance develops when antibiotics are used excessively or incorrectly. The bacteria then start to protect themselves.
The report was released in connection with the European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) on 18 November, a European health initiative coordinated by ECDC, which provides a platform and support for national campaigns on the prudent use of antibiotics.
ECDC’s estimates are based on data from 2016 to 2020. According to the centre, the number of deaths due to infections with resistant bacteria or fungi, in particular, is increasing.
And although the overall use of drugs against these types of pathogens went down by almost a quarter between 2012 and 2021, the administration of certain types of antibiotics has increased.
“We see concerning increases in the number of deaths attributable to infections with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, especially those that are resistant to last-line antimicrobial treatment” said Andrea Ammon, ECDC Director.
“Each day, nearly 100 people die from these infections in the EU/EEA. Further efforts are needed to continue to reduce unnecessary antimicrobial use, improve infection prevention and control practices, design and implement antimicrobial stewardship programmes and ensure adequate microbiological capacity at national level.”
ECDC is calling for responsible use of antibiotics and other medicines to prevent even more of them from becoming ineffective.
The reported antimicrobial resistance percentages varied widely among countries for several bacterial species–antimicrobial group combinations. In general, the lowest AMR percentages were reported by countries in the north of Europe, and the highest by countries in the south and east of Europe.
In some European countries, antibiotics are available without a prescription from a general practitioner.