Press Release

Ministers Coveney and Varadkar welcome European Antibiotics Awareness Day 2015 and the first World Antibiotic Awareness Week

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD and the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD marked European Antibiotics Awareness Day and the inaugural World Antibiotics Awareness Week by reaffirming their cross-government commitment to tackling the issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

Both Ministers welcomed the awareness initiatives as a means of drawing attention to the continued global concern in relation to Antimicrobial Resistance and its potential threat to human and animal health, as well as the challenges to food security and the environment.  In particular, the Ministers said that they wished to highlight the increased worldwide reach of the campaign to raise awareness in relation to AMR which has seen the launching of the first World Antibiotics Awareness Week.

Commenting on the complexity of the issue, the Ministers said that, “given that AMR is recognised as a global health issue, it is generally accepted that no individual sector can hope to address it in isolation.    All of the major international plans support a “One Health” agenda urging collaboration across the human, veterinary and environmental sectors. The One Health approach acknowledges that there needs to be a co-ordinated response from the public health, animal health and environmental sectors, including other stakeholders in the private and public sectors”.

Ministers Coveney and Varadkar explained that, in the spirit of this “One Health” approach, the National Interdepartmental Antimicrobial Resistance Consultative Committee (NIARCC) was set up one year ago by Ministers Coveney and Varadkar to demonstrate the government’s commitment to joined-up thinking in our tackling of AMR .

Minister Coveney said that he attached considerable importance to the work of this Committee: “Through joint leadership across government Departments and a collaborative approach with membership from key industry stakeholders, the National Consultative Committee continues at national level to support strategies and work towards the ‘One Health ‘ agenda as endorsed in the World Health Organisation’s Global Action plan 2015.”

Minister Varadkar stated: ‘.  In recognition of the threat of antimicrobial resistance  three National Clinical Effectiveness Committee Guidelines which promote  antimicrobial stewardship – Sepsis Management, Prevention and Control of MRSA and Management of Clostridium difficile are now endorsed by my Department.  These important guidelines will assist in the early recognition and treatment of infection in both the hospital and community settings and will add to the tools we can use in addressing this most serious global risk.’

Concluding, the Ministers said: “Both Departments will continue to engage in efforts to preserve the effectiveness of current antibiotics through prudent use and stewardship programmes as well as promoting infection prevention strategies”.


What is AMR?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is resistance of a microorganism to a drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by that microorganism. 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 evolution of resistant strains is a natural phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms replicate themselves erroneously or when resistant traits are exchanged between them. The use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs accelerates the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Poor infection control practices, inadequate sanitary conditions and inappropriate food handling encourage the further spread of AMR.

What is the effect of AMR?
A recent European Commission report estimated that drug-resistant bacteria are now responsible for about 25,000 human deaths per annum in the EU alone, with associated healthcare costs and productivity losses of €1.5b. The Commission also estimated that approx. 4m patients are estimated to acquire a healthcare associated infection in the EU every year.

What does ‘One Health’ mean?
The ‘One Health ‘concept came into being because of the fact that humans and animal share the same bacteria, which can transfer from one population to the other. Consequently the antibiotics used to treat these bacteria in animals, may be the same, or similar, to those used to treat infectious diseases in the human population. Therefore in order to address the emergence and spread of AMR, there needs to be a co-ordinated response from the public health, animal health and environmental sectors, including other stakeholders in the private and public sectors.

The multi-sector harmonisation of strategies and measures to address the challenge of AMR are necessary at a global, regional, and national level. There has been global intersectoral collaboration since 2010, with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) establishing tripartite actions to coordinate strategies to ensure antimicrobials maintain their efficacy, and are used responsibly.  These agencies are signatories to a ‘One Health’ worldwide initiative. The European Commission has also promoted a holistic and multi-sectoral approach involving many groups such as the public health, food safety, animal health and welfare, research and innovation, bio-safety and environment sectors. The EU at both Council and Parliament levels has developed its Community Strategy against AMR having regard to the ‘One Health’ concept. At a national level the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine established the National Interdepartmental Antimicrobial Resistance Consultative Committee in 2014 as part of the ‘One Health‘ initiative, and to advance a holistic national approach in working together to ensure that effective antibiotics remain available into the future.

What is the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan 2015?
In May 2015, delegates at the World Health Assembly endorsed a global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance – including antibiotic resistance, the most urgent drug resistance trend.

The plan sets out 5 objectives:
1.    improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
2.    strengthen surveillance and research;
3.    reduce the incidence of infection;
4.    optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines;
5.    ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.