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article imageReduce antibiotic use now, say European parliamentarians

By Tim Sandle     Feb 24, 2016 in Health
New measures are required to stem the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials in order to slow down the emergence of new ‘superbugs’ (multi-drug resistant bacteria.) To achieve this, European politicians call for new measures.
The growth in antibiotic and antimicrobial resistant bacteria is one of the major problems facing health systems worldwide. This describes bacteria that could once be killed or inhibited readily with established antimicrobials developing a resistance to the agent. Some bacteria have become resistant to one or more compounds, meaning the number of treatment options for a patient is reduced and the antimicrobials available are more likely to trigger unpleasant side-effects. If the rate of resistance increases, many infections will become untreatable.
For these reasons, the university sector and governments are running or sponsoring programs to find new antimicrobial compounds. Pharmaceutical companies are slowly becoming involved; when public sector money is used to support research and development (pharmaceutical companies have been concerned about the low return on investment.) The development of new compounds is a slow process, given the necessity of clinical trials which need to be robust and run over the long term in order to assess safety and efficacy.
The word “antibiotic” refers to substances produced by microorganisms that act against another microorganism, so synthetic substances are excluded from this definition. Antimicrobials are any agents that act against all types of microorganisms. So, an antibiotic is an "antimicrobial" but not all antimicrobials are "antibiotics."
For the interim, use of antibiotics and antimicrobials needs to be curbed, according to a committee of European Union parliament members who sit on the Environment and Public Health Committee.
The main action to put in place is to stop, where practicable, the administration of antimicrobials to farm animals. This is not carried out for animals welfare issues, but to produce leaner meat. The problem is the promotion of antimicrobial resistance through this practice, and the transfer of these organisms by farm workers into the community.
Here the committee is recommending that throughout Europe veterinary medicines must not under any circumstances serve to improve the performance or compensate for poor animal husbandry. They are seeking a law that would give the European Commission power to designate antimicrobials which are to be reserved for human treatment only. The measure was proposed by Françoise Grossetête, a French Member of Parliament.
How likely this is to happen is uncertain. The European Commission is made up of representatives of member governments, with the directly elected parliament having only an advisory role.
More about Superbugs, Farm animals, Antibiotics, antimicrobials
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