Press Release

Cross-Government Committee set up to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance

The Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, announced today that a National Interdepartmental Antimicrobial Resistance Consultative Committee has been set up to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

The setting up of this Committee coincides with European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2014 being marked this week, aimed at increasing public awareness of need for the prudent use of antibiotics in the treatment of human and animal diseases.

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer welcomed the establishment of the Committee which, they said, is an important step in developing a unified approach to antimicrobial resistance which spans people, animals and the wider environment under the Healthy Ireland framework.

The rise in antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest potential threats to human and animal health with serious consequences for public health, animal health and welfare, and food production. Antimicrobial resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics and by poor infection control. Existing antibiotics are becoming less effective, fewer and fewer new antibiotics are being developed, and new multi-resistant bacteria are emerging in both human and veterinary medicine.

Ireland has a relatively high rate of antimicrobial resistance in human health compared to most European countries and antibiotics are used more frequently than the European average. The Departments of Health and Agriculture have been tackling this issue for some time in their own areas, but from this week will be sharing information much more closely. They will be working with the relevant stakeholders from both sectors in a single consultative forum, chaired jointly by both Departments.

Commenting on the establishment of the Committee, Minister Varadkar said:  “The rise in antimicrobial resistance represents a significant challenge for all of us. The health service has already made considerable progress in tackling MRSA and C.diff but we have a long way to go. This new forum will help us to share vital information and to work even more closely in the future.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney T.D. stated that dealing with the problem of antibiotic resistance requires a coordinated approach “It is important that there is communication and cooperation across the Health and Agriculture Departments in relation to this issue.  Antibiotics are a hugely valuable resource to protect both human and animal health and our best chance at protecting them is by working together today to ensure that we have effective antibiotics tomorrow”.