MEMBERS of the European Parliament (MEPs) recently called for "immediate" action from authorities to combat antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which are leading to the death of 25,000 people per year across the 27-nation European Union, Iceland and Norway.
"Urgent action must be taken to fight them by developing new drugs, using existing ones more carefully and improving animal husbandry," the European lawmakers agreed in a 588-16 vote, with 23 abstentions.
The resolution that MEPs overwhelmingly approved Dec. 11 in Strasbourg, France, was first proposed by MEP Anna Rosbach from Denmark. During debate on the motion, Rosbach laid out her case for urgent action.
"The number of resistant bacteria in Europe is exploding. Bacteria travel across borders and are a threat for the whole EU. First of all, we must ensure that the use of antimicrobials for both humans and animals is reduced, but we also need to bridge the gap between rising resistance and development of new antimicrobials by promoting more research and innovation. If we don't take measures now, the growing resistance could threaten our ability to treat patients and could even take us back to the pre-antibiotic era," Rosbach argued.
At the heart of the approach to which MEPs agreed is a goal to keep current drugs as effective as possible by making sure they are used responsibly.
This will require better education of doctors, pharmacists, veterinarians and farmers on the risks posed by the improper use of antimicrobials, MEPs said.
Second, MEPs said livestock and aquaculture producers and doctors should concentrate on "disease prevention rather than prophylactic use." The agriculture and medical sectors can accomplish this through improved hygiene in vulnerable areas like hospitals and better animal husbandry.
Third, the lawmakers agreed that only veterinarians should be permitted to prescribe antimicrobials in the livestock sector. In order to avoid economic incentives to prescribe these drugs, this prescription right should be separated from the right to sell these drugs, MEPs suggested.
Fourth, "The veterinary use of third- and fourth-generation antimicrobials, which the World Health Organization classifies as critically important for humans, should be restricted," the MEPs said.
Fifth, they said the EU needs to encourage and better coordinate research on new antimicrobials.
While the European Parliament's vote was on a non-binding resolution, it is an indication of how most lawmakers across the 27-nation bloc are leaning.