Alarming number of infections, deaths due to antimicrobial resistance across Europe: Report

Around 33,000 people died as a direct consequence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections

By Deepak Bhati
Published: Monday 14 February 2022

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is widespread across Europe, according to a new report. As many as 670,000 persons in the European Union / European Economic Area (EU / EEA) are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, the report stated. 

Around 33,000 people died as a direct consequence of these infections, according to a report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe.

The results were based on AMR data from invasive isolates reported to the Central Asian and European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (CAESAR) network and the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) in 2021 (data referring to 2020). 

CAESAR received data from 12 nations and Kosovo, while EARS-Net received data from 29 countries, including all from EU and two from EEA (Iceland and Norway). 

This year, AMR surveillance reporting in the European Region is 100 percent aligned, which is a result of all the efforts that began in 2012. This follows the lead of other regional joint surveillance initiatives (such as tuberculosis and HIV), which have resulted in several such reports with ECDC.

Carbapenem resistance in E. coli and K. pneumoniae and vancomycin resistance in E. faecium increased significantly between 2016 and 2020 in the regions. High percentages of resistance to third-generation cephalosporins and carbapenems in K. pneumoniae, as well as high percentages of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter species and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in several European nations have also raised concern. 

Andrea Ammon, director of ECDC, said: 

Everyone – including policy-makers, health professionals, patients and governmental and nongovernmental organizations – has a role to play in addressing the public health threat of AMR.

Most WHO European Region member states have increased their efforts to combat AMR after the approval of the European Strategic Action Plan on Antibiotic Resistance in 2011 and the publishing of the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2015.

In 2016, only 25 (50 per cent) of the region's 50 countries / areas reported having established an AMR national action plan (NAP). The latest round of global monitoring revealed that the number increased to 43 (86 per cent) of the region's 50 countries / areas that responded.

In the WHO European Region, 20 per cent of countries / areas reported having no surveillance capacity for generating AMR surveillance data or simply collecting AMR data at the local level without a standardised strategy.

The report also highlighted the looming problem of ensuring full implementation and enough funding for NAPs.

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