On 31st May 2017, policymakers and health representatives met within the framework of the European Parliamentary Interest Group on Innovation on health and social care to spur debate on innovative diagnostic solutions necessary to manage and fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Europe. In this frame, the meeting entitled Innovation in diagnostics for fighting antimicrobial resistance provided the framework to launch the White Paper on rapid diagnostic technologies to tackle AMR, perceived to be valuable tools to curb the antibiotic misuse by reducing unnecessary prescription, tailoring treatment for bacterial infections, and limiting the spread of infections.
As initially underlined by MEP Karin Kadenbach, since the introduction of penicillin in the 1940s antimicrobial medicines, such as antibiotics, have become essential for the treatment of many microbial infections in humans and animals. However, misuse and abuse of antibiotics worldwide has eroded their efficacy and antibiotic-resistant bacteria have emerged and spread across the globe.
Mr Arūnas Ribokas, member of the Cabinet of Commissioner Andriukaitis, indicated some remarkable achievements that have been made possible in the field of AMR. Actions previously taken at EU level enshrined in the EU Action Plan on AMR 2011-2016 have paved the way to develop a One Health approach, which combines both human and animal health. Based on the lesson learnt from the aforementioned Action Plan, the forthcoming one will be focused on three main priorities: making the EU a best practice region in addressing AMR, stimulating research and innovation, and shaping global engagement beyond EU countries. It will include different aspects, like environment and research, and improve knowledge across Europe”.
There is a general lack of new antibiotics pipeline, worrying misuse and overuse of antimicrobials and many concerns regarding the effectiveness of such antibiotics. Here comes the need to work together in order to identify the problem, make further progress and support the level of education of health professionals, by giving them simple ways of analysis and instruments to detect/prevent infections. As emphasised by HFE Honorary President Mr John Bowis, it is important to make things happen.
In line with this, Ms Barbara Kerstiens, Deputy Head of Unit for fighting infectious diseases and advancing public health in DG Research and Innovation, highlighted the aspect of research to combat AMR. While developing new strategies for a prudent and rational use of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture along with novel antimicrobial therapies, the Commission aims at creating and validating new rapid cost-effective diagnostic tests to determine whether and which antibiotic should be prescribed as well as to support the advancement of novel antimicrobials. In this regard, “numerous projects have been developed in the area of diagnostics – such as CAVIDI and MOBIDIAG etc. – and new business models are needed to reflect the societal value of limiting the use of antimicrobials while promoting the use of novel diagnostics”.
To point out the critical role of rapid diagnostic technologies and discuss the current limitation to their uptake, Health First Europe in collaboration with Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO) and the World Alliance Against Antibiotic Resistance (WAAR) and with the support of the MEP co-chairs of the EP Interest Group on innovation in health and social care worked on a policy White Paper on rapid diagnostic technologies to tackle AMR. New rapid diagnostic technologies represent priority instruments for managing infections treatment, identify the nature of virus and bacteria, and for increasing knowledge on infection control and surveillance. Fostering the use of diagnostic technologies can help the whole society to protect better antibiotic conservation and lower development of resistance over time. More policies and measures are needed to encourage the uptake of such tools and develop public messages in healthcare systems to facilitate clinical evidence for rapid diagnostics.
Mr Jean Carlet, President of the World Alliance against Antibiotic Resistance, called for compelling actions to encourage a change of patients’ behaviour and redefine relationships in healthcare settings. Taking the Dutch model as a reference point, citizens, policymakers, industry and health carers need to create synergies to conduct greater analysis, develop ambitious studies, and enhance trust and cooperation at all levels. With the launch of the White Paper, as underlined by Mr Carlet, there is the imperative to invest more in rapid diagnostic technologies, “as they are vital instruments able to separate at the bedside viral from bacterial infections, identify the type of bacteria, and provide the resistance pattern that will help physicians to decide/select the proper antibiotic immediately”.
While it is clear that managing the use of antibiotics has become an important patient safety and public health issue as well as a global priority, MEP Marian Harkin emphasized how it is essential to work together on a multi-level approach to tackle effectively this public health issue. Not only there is a lot to do, but also a lot that people can learn from each other. Therefore, it is decisive to develop an integrated, comprehensive approach and strengthen coordination with EU agencies, food safety authorities and national competent authorities to spread the problem and share best practices, bringing together human and animal health for new solutions.