The discovery and use of antibiotics has had an enormous impact on our health care system. Nowadays, the treatment and prevention of microbial infections fully depends on the availability of effective antibiotics. In addition to this, advanced surgical procedures like organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm babies heavily relies on effective antibiotics. Unfortunately, the emergence and rise of resistance to the currently available antimicrobial drugs threatens the treatment of both hospital- and community-acquired bacterial infections and endangers many modern medical practices. This situation is further aggravated by a sharp decline in the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs needed to overcome drug resistance. Such developments represent a looming crisis for our health care system.
It is crucial to contain antimicrobial drug resistance (AMDR) and to nourish research aimed at combating it. This research need has been addressed within the EU framework programmes, where AMDR has been given a high priority over the last decade with significant financial support from the Health Directorate of the Directorate General for Research (DG RTD) in the European Commission.
The development and spread of AMDR are amongst the areas that are currently being investigated together with novel evidence based approaches to manage patients with a view of optimizing antibiotic use. In addition, the discovery and development of novel antimicrobial drugs and the identification of their molecular targets are areas that have attracted funding. This is of prime importance since only few antimicrobial agents have been launched during the last 30 to 40 years. Underinvestment in antibiotic research and development by the major pharmaceutical industry has contributed to this problem. The research projects that are supported by the Health Directorate of DG RTD aim to form and support multidisciplinary collaborations, to obtain a critical mass of researchers investigating AMDR within Europe, and to mobilize the European biotech industry.
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