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Antibiotics resistance
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Taking up the challenge

The most vulnerable at highest risk

The combination of patients with weakened immune systems, prolonged exposure to anti-infective drugs, and cross-infection has given rise to nosocomial infections with highly resistant pathogens. These include, in particular, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), as well as certain serious fungal infections.

Children are particularly susceptible to respiratory infections, but because of the exaggerated use of antibiotics to treat them, modern day-care facilities are becoming hot spots for the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. Similarly, longterm care facilities for the elderly increasingly serve as reservoirs for resistant bacteria as such patients tend to pick up infections during frequent visits to hospital.

The EURIS project aims to find out how resistant strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae in children attending day-care centres could be reduced by comparing the impact of different intervention studies in four European ountries and then developing a ‘bestpractice’ for decision-makers in public health regarding resistance control in respiratory tract infections in children.

The ARPAC project is gathering data on antibiotic consumption and resistance in pathogens with the aim of developing harmonised strategies for prevention and control of antibiotic resistance in European hospitals.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common and particularly dangerous cause of nosocomial infections. The Pseudomonas Virulence project aims to develop a new diagnostic test based on DNA chip technology and to identify virulence and resistance factors for the development of improved infection control measures in hospital. The results could be widely applicable to many other human pathogens.

Tuberculosis strikes back

Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is increasingly being found in many parts of the world, in particular Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Previously effective and inexpensive drugs must now be replaced with extensive and lengthy treatments a hundred times more expensive.

The X-TB project is an integrated approach that is combining proteomics with structural and functional genomics in the development of novel drug targets and new therapeutic compounds to treat tuberculosis. The objective of the Dissarm project is to develop rapid and highly sensitive diagnostic tests for the identification and characterisation of multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis.

Tracking microbial resistance

Infectious diseases do not respect borders – likewise the resistant strains of pathogens that cause them. Current knowledge is insufficient to either predict or prevent the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance developing across EU Member States and, indeed, globally. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind these phenomena is essential to develop a long-term strategy against drug resistance.

The DEAR project addresses the dynamics of the evolution of antimicrobial drug resistance – for example, the effects of different antibiotic dosage regimes.

Antibiotics in food-producing animals

The emergence of antibiotic resistance in veterinary medicine and farming appears similar to that in humans. Large quantities of anti-infective drugs are used not only to treat sick animals, but also as regular supplements to prevent infections. An important advancement placing the European Union as a world leader in this context is recent legislation eliminating antibiotics used in humans from being used as growth promoters in animal feeds.

In the CREAM study, a portable plug-in cartridge for field use is being developed for monitoring antibiotic residues in milk. Synthetic molecularly imprinted polymer beads form the recognition elements, while detection is by fluorescence.

Working on it

Under the European Commission’s Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (1999-2002), more that €50 million has been devoted to projects related to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. A few projects have been included here to illustrate the breadth and scope of current research efforts in this field in Europe.

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Taking up the challenge