Antimicrobials

Antibiotic resistance affects the entire WHO European Region, driven by the overuse, underuse and misuse of antibiotics. Although some efforts have been made to combat indiscriminate use, many countries have no national regulation or enforcement on antibiotic usage.

  • Healthy animals are given antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease.
  • Commercial companies promote use of antibiotics irresponsibly.
  • In several countries, antibiotics are available over the counter.

For the practical implementation of the European strategic action plan on Antibiotic Resistance, WHO/Europe focuses mainly on non-European Union (EU) Member States, although guidance and support is offered to all Member States of the Region. Methods used by WHO/Europe are similar to those of partner organizations such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which allows for cross-Europe comparisons of data. Efforts in countries are centred on coordination between sectors of government, academia and industry, human and animal health, etc.

WHO supports countries in the development of their national action plans, and in the setup or strengthening of surveillance on antibiotic consumption and resistance through a number of activities including:

  • country missions
  • workshops
  • capacity building
  • facilitation of twinning between national reference laboratories
  • tailored consultancy.

WHO/Europe works actively on promoting responsible use of antibiotics. It provides direct support to countries to establish evidence on antimicrobial medicines consumption and helps identify policy options to address consumption. WHO/Europe provides training, and helps countries build capacity among health professionals and relevant stakeholders to improve prescribing and use.

Monitoring of antimicrobials consumption data is an important component of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance and is a crucial element for prevention of the further development of antimicrobial resistance in the populations. Until now, data on the consumption of antimicrobials publically available in non-EU countries have been very limited.

To address this gap, WHO/Europe and relevant Member States have been working closely with Antwerp University, Belgium, who played a leading role in setting up the European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption Network. The aim of the collaboration is to:

  • develop estimates of antimicrobials consumption in non-EU countries of the Region for further establishment of antimicrobials consumption surveillance systems;
  • support national stewardship models (including AMR strategies and national medicines policies); and
  • inform policy development, as well as implementation of control and adherence measures in both the health and economic sectors.