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Superbacteria: Time for action

This week was World Antibiotic Week. An opportunity to warn of the overuse of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine as the spread of antimicrobial resistance is accelerated. Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety and Japan's Health Minister Katsunobu Kat commented on the issue.

"" What's wrong with a cold? ", You might think – 'small bacteria don't kill us.' At the same time, you can overlook the fact that some of these bacteria have already turned into superbacteria: more and more of our antibiotics are losing their effect because there are more antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbacteria .

Each year, 700,000 deaths are linked to antibiotic resistance infections worldwide. This is as much as other infectious diseases that threaten us around the world. It often affects the weakest and most severe: infants, young children and the elderly. Societies like the EU and Japan, which take pride in the welfare of the weaker, cannot simply tolerate the problem of antimicrobial resistance. It is high time to act.

The commitments we made at the Okayama G20 Ministerial Meeting must be fulfilled. Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem. Therefore, health ministers themselves will never be able to solve the problem. Instead, a holistic concept ("one health"), that is, an interaction between human and animal health as well as the environment, is needed.

A national action plan was launched in Japan in 2016 with a very positive cross-sectoral approach. Compared to 2013, Japan reduced its use of antimicrobial agents by about 11 percent in 2018. These included, among other things, publishing guidelines for prudent use and encouraging pediatricians to refrain from prescribing unnecessary antibiotics. In addition, surveillance systems have been introduced in several Asian countries to detect early hospital infections due to antibiotic resistance.

At EU level, our promising action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance provides a framework for action to combat the emergence and spread of such resistance. In addition, new EU legislation on veterinary and nutritional products provides for stricter measures in this regard.

If we want to fight antimicrobial resistance, we can only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary. Vaccinations, better diagnostics or alternative therapy may be helpful here. Vaccination reduces the risk of infection that allows us to take antibiotics. Failure to act in this area can have devastating consequences worldwide: 10 million deaths a year and 100 billion euros lost to the global economy by 2050. This is why global partnerships, such as those between Japan and the EU, are becoming increasingly important to secure our future. "