Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobial resistance is resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it. Resistant microorganisms (including bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) are able to withstand attack by antimicrobial drugs, such as antibacterial drugs (e.g. antibiotics), antifungals, antivirals, and antimalarials, so that standard treatments become ineffective and infections persist, increasing the risk of spread to others. The rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognised at global, European and national levels, including Ireland,  as one of the greatest potential threats to human and animal health with possible serious consequences for public health, animal welfare and the agriculture and food sectors. Further details from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Longitude Prize.

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National Interdepartmental AMR Consultative Committee

  • In recognition of the serious and increasing threat of antimicrobial resistance and the requirement for a ‘whole of Government’ approach to health issues, the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) established a high level National Interdepartmental AMR Consultative Committee to address this issue.  The Committee meets Ireland’s requirements to have an Intersectoral co-ordinating mechanism for addressing AMR at European level.
  • The Committee was launched, with Ministerial approval, on European Antibiotic Awareness Day in November 2014 and has a clear role and mandate across the human and animal health sectors.  Committee membership consists of representatives of both Departments and of the relevant HSE and veterinary specialist agencies, including other relevant bodies with a remit across the two sectors; membership is representative of major stakeholders.   The Committee meets bi-annually and its most recent meeting took place this week.

Ireland is fully committed to and engaged in addressing resolution of the problem of AMR and will continue to collaborate at international, EU and national levels to this end. Ireland contributes reporting to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System.

Ireland, through membership of the World Health Organisation, is part of the international effort aimed at tackling the global public health threat of AMR, which requires action across human and animal health sectors, agriculture and the wider environment.

In May 2015 at the WHO 68th World Health Assembly the final WHO Global Action Plan was endorsed; it sets out five strategic objectives:

  1. to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  2. to strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research;
  3. to reduce the incidence of infection;
  4. to optimize the use of antimicrobial agents and
  5. develop the economic case for sustainable investment that takes account of the needs of all countries, and increase investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

Through adoption of the Global Action Plan, governments committed to have in place, by May 2017, a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance that is aligned with the global action plan. This national plan needs to cover the use of antimicrobial medicines in animal health and agriculture, as well as for human health. WHO will work with countries to support the development and implementation of their national plans, and will report progress to the Health Assembly in 2017.

The National Interdepartmental AMR Consultative Committee held its third meeting on 13 April last and agreed as a key action for 2016 the development of Ireland’s AMR national action plan.

In addition, the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) and AMR has been a significant, long-standing patient safety and public health priority for the Department of Health for many years.

A wide range of initiatives have been put in place in the Irish health system over several years in response to the rising incidence of AMRs. These include:

  • improved surveillance of infections and prescribing
  • infection prevention and control processes
  • antimicrobial stewardship initiatives
  • public and professional awareness raising, with a significant emphasis on the education and training of healthcare professionals.

For further information on Committee Meetings.