Antimicrobial agents – such as antibiotics – have dramatically reduced the number of deaths from infectious diseases during the 70 years since their introduction. However, through overuse and misuse of these agents, many micro-organisms have become resistant to them.

According to data from 2011, 25 000 patients die annually as a result of infections caused by resistant bacteria in the EU. The costs incurred by drug resistant infections amount to an estimated €1.5 billion annually, due to increases in healthcare expenditure costs and productivity losses.

The situation is all the more serious because antimicrobials have become an essential tool for modern medicine. Many surgical operations could not be performed without them.

Action Plan against antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

To tackle antimicrobial resistance, a holistic, multi-sectorial approach, involving many different sectors (human medicine, veterinary medicine, research, animal husbandry, agriculture, environment, trade and communication) is needed. It is only by taking action in all of these areas simultaneously that further spread of resistance will be limited and antibiotics kept effective.

The fight against AMR will not succeed without the efforts and commitment of Member States and all involved stakeholders including doctors and all healthcare workers, pharmacists, veterinarians, and the general public.

 The Commission's 2011 action plan against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistancepdf contains 12 actions for implementation with EU member countries and identifies 7 areas where measures are most necessary:

  • making sure antimicrobials are used appropriately in both humans and animals
  • preventing microbial infections and their spread
  • developing new effective antimicrobials or alternatives for treatment
  • cooperating with international partners to contain the risks of AMR
  • improving monitoring and surveillance in human and animal medicine
  • promoting research and innovation
  • improving communication, education and training.

The Commission has compiled a detailed overview of the 12 Actions covered by the Action plan in a roadmappdf(282 KB), including the operational objectives, the concrete activities and the deadlines. A progress reportpdf(366 KB) on the AMR Action Plan published in February 2015, shows the state of play of steps taken to address AMR.

As one of the key deliverables of the EU action plan, the Commission published guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicinepdf (annexpdf).

DG Health and Food Safety aims to substantially reinforce existing good practices and to support Member States in preventing the further spread of resistances and preserve the ability of antibiotics to combat microbial infections, also as a means to enhance patient safety in Europepdf(837 KB) Choose translations of the previous link български (bg) čeština (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti keel (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) français (fr) hrvatski (hr) italiano (it) latviešu valoda (lv) lietuvių kalba (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv) .

Promotion and support

The Commission funds several antimicrobial resistance projects Choose translations of the previous link български (bg) čeština (cs) dansk (da) Deutsch (de) eesti keel (et) ελληνικά (el) español (es) français (fr) italiano (it) latviešu valoda (lv) lietuvių kalba (lt) magyar (hu) Malti (mt) Nederlands (nl) polski (pl) português (pt) română (ro) slovenčina (sk) slovenščina (sl) suomi (fi) svenska (sv)  through its Health Programme and its research programmes. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Medicines Agency jointly partcipate in AMR surveillance and monitor AMR related risks.

European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) is a European health initiative organised by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which aims to provide a platform and support for national campaigns about prudent antibiotic use. Over the years, European Antibiotic Awareness Day marked annually on 18 November has developed into a platform of global reach, partnering up with many countries outside the EU as well as relevant stakeholders, in line with the Commission's "One-Health" approach to AMR.

International cooperation

AMR is a global threat, and international cooperation in the area is key. In 2011, the EU-US Transatlantic Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance established under the Swedish Presidency in 2009 published recommendations for future collaboration between the US and EUpdf. In 2014, the first TATFAR Progress Report was released.
The Commission collaborates with other international initiatives in the area (the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)).