Antibiotics are used in both human and veterinary medicine to treat bacterial infections. They are an indispensable pillar of modern medicine and play a decisive role in various areas such as transplantation medicine or the care of premature babies.
However, inappropriate use – for example, in fighting viral infections, against which they are generally ineffective, or inaccurate dosing – combined with insufficient compliance with hygiene and sanitation requirements in human and veterinary medicine as well as in agriculture, allow antimicrobial resistance to develop and thrive. Additionally, international tourism and trade relations are boosting the spread. The consequence of antimicrobial resistance is that infections that were once easily treated can now only be cured with difficulty – if at all.
The number of bacterial pathogens that have become less sensitive, or even fully resistant to antibiotics, is increasing worldwide and becoming a challenge in the provision of health care. In 2014, WHO published a global report about the state of antimicrobial resistance. According to this document, few data are available on antimicrobial resistance since many countries do not have the necessary monitoring systems. The meagre data available from regions outside of Europe and North America in some cases point towards very high resistance rates. In Germany, measures to fight antimicrobial resistance are coordinated within the German Antibiotic Resistance Strategy (DART 2020). In the long term, however, the fight against antimicrobial resistance can only be won through multi-sector cooperation between human and veterinary medicine, together with agriculture, at international level.
It was for this reason that the World Health Assembly adopted a Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance in May 2015. It emphasises the 'One Health' approach, which implies the need for a joint approach by human and veterinary medicine as well as agriculture in combating antimicrobial resistance. All Member States are being called upon to adopt national action plans embracing the One Health approach by mid-2017. With DART 2020, Germany has already complied with this demand.
Moreover, during its G7 Presidency in 2015, Germany also addressed the topic of antimicrobial resistance. In their "Berlin Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance", the G7 health ministers support restricting the use of antibiotics to the provision of medical treatment subsequent to an individual, case-based diagnosis. They also pledge to help other countries develop national action plans against antimicrobial resistance and to promote the research and development of new antibiotics and diagnostic tools.