Antibiotic resistance is currently one of the greatest threats to human health. We believe that the European parliament needs to take urgent action against antibiotic resistance, using a holistic 'One Health' approach recognising the relationship between disease and health in humans and animals.
Political activist Leroy Eldridge Cleaver once said, 'There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.' This quote applies perfectly to the problem with antibiotic resistance – the challenge will become unsurmountable if nothing is done now.
Antibiotic resistance is annually causing the death of at least 25.000 Europeans. Parliament can be a part of the solution – and save human lives – through its current legislative work on veterinary medicine and animal health, a task the parliament is expected to complete by June.
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The Nordic countries have approached this challenge by applying a 'One Health' perspective. This concept recognises the relationship between disease and health in humans and animals, and the environment in which we are operating.
Humans may be on top of the food chain, but we are still part of the chain. Antibiotic resistance has made it increasingly clear that there is a need for interdisciplinary co-operation between human medicine, veterinary medicine and ecology to fight disease and improve health.
The Nordic countries have been relatively successful in keeping the prevalence of antibiotic resistant microbes at a low level through a co-ordinated approach and efforts on multiple levels.
The cornerstones of the joint Nordic model of 'One Health' in the field of antibiotic resistance can be described as prevention (preventative measures against infection), monitoring (comprehensive collection of data), action (legislation and other regulatory instruments) and education (broad information campaigns).
All Nordic countries have a ban on veterinarians and doctors earning money from the sale of antibiotics.
Next week, we will be hosting the seminar 'One Health from a Nordic perspective - Prevention of infectious diseases and resistance' in parliament.
Its purpose is to disseminate Nordic experiences and knowledge in preventative measures and disease control to parliament.
In the animal sector, proper rearing systems are often replaced with antibiotics as a result of pressure for mass production. In many countries the use of antibiotics in the animal sector accounts for up to 80 per cent of the total consumption.
Currently the legislation is insufficient, and has not kept pace with the growing concerns and political will to address the problem. Also, it does not take full account of the modern way of sharing information.
We believe it is important to have political awareness and willingness to dismantle legal, financial and organisational barriers to fully develop European One Health collaboration.
Parliament is in the process of preparing legislation on veterinary medicine and animal health. This is a window of opportunity for broad European action against antibiotic resistance.
We believe that parliament should pass legislation that accomplishes the following:
• Stops the practice of using antibiotics as a substitute for neglecting animal welfare
• Prohibits doctors and veterinarians to earn money on the sale of antibiotics
• Supports co-operation between the human and veterinary sectors
• Strengthens monitoring and data collection as a basis for prevention close to the source
• Limits the total use of antibiotics, and the use of narrow- spectrum antibiotics as the first choice in treatment
• Underpins treatment of humans and animals based on diagnostics and an understanding of resistance patterns
• Improve controls of emissions and measures to prevent antibiotics in the environment
Using a 'One Health' approach, the new EU legislation can be a part of the solution to stop antibacterial resistance, potentially saving thousands of lives, and making Europe the world leader in combatting this century's greatest threat to human health.