Every infection prevented is an antibiotic treatment avoided

This year during World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), the WHO European Region focuses on the key role health-care workers and policy-makers can play in preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in health-care settings through effective infection prevention and control.

In some countries of the Region, more than 50% of infections are caused by pathogens that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines. Variations across countries are linked to use of antibiotics as well as infection prevention and control practices. A new Lancet article published on 13 November 2017 points at the value of infection prevention and control action as a key solution to contain the spread of AMR.

WAAW runs from 13 to 19 November 2017. It builds on the previous campaign SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands, which used the slogan “Fight antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands”. The campaign highlighted the link between proper hand hygiene – one of the key infection prevention and control measures – and AMR control.

Every infection prevented is an antibiotic treatment avoided

Up to 10% of patients under treatment globally are estimated to acquire at least one health care-associated infection (HAI) at any given time. Such infections can impact quality of life and lead to serious disease or even death. In the European Union, it is estimated that about 4 million hospitalized patients acquire an HAI each year, and about 37 000 die as a direct result of these infections.

Effective infection prevention and control can avoid 1 in 3 HAIs. This means less need for antibiotics, which in turn reduces the spread of AMR. The International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) position effective infection prevention and control as a key strategy to address public health threats of international concern, such as AMR. AMR is also a top priority for action for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Play your role in controlling antibiotic resistance!

Key stakeholders from the health sector all have a critical role to play in controlling AMR.

Health-care workers can help protect people from avoidable infections contracted in health-care settings and prevent the spread of AMR through hand hygiene with soap or alcohol-based rub. This simple yet fundamental step helps spare the use of antibiotics and defend their efficiency.

WHO recommends health-care workers apply the “My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene” approach, which defines the key moments when health-care workers should perform hand hygiene:

  1. before patient contact;
  2. before preparing and administering injections;
  3. after contact with body fluids;
  4. after patient contact; and
  5. after touching patient surroundings.

Managers of health facilities, infection prevention and control leaders, and policy-makers can contribute by championing targeted programmes and hygiene campaigns according to WHO’s guidelines.

While AMR’s effects are mostly borne by the health sector, its causes lie within many sectors. WAAW encourages all countries, health partners and the public to help raise awareness of AMR and to emphasize that we all have a part to play in preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines.

New data, new pledges

In the Region, WAAW joins forces with European Antibiotic Awareness Day, a European initiative started in 2008. WHO/Europe’s activities for WAAW 2017 include the release of new AMR data for the Region and a whole-of-society call for a pledge for AMR control.

New data on AMR in European countries will be released on 15 November 2017 in the third annual report of the Central Asian and Eastern European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (CAESAR) network and in a new section of WHO/Europe’s European Health Information Gateway. This information is invaluable in providing insight into the scope of the problem and identifying key priorities for action.

Nine European countries and Kosovo (in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)) already share their surveillance data internationally, and an additional 10 countries are strengthening their surveillance systems to be able to do so in the future.

In connection with WAAW 2017, WHO/Europe and Public Health England (PHE) are launching a new Turkish version of Antibiotic Guardian, a web-based campaign initiated by PHE in 2014 that was made available in Russian last year. Since 2014, more than 50 000 people have pledged their support and become Antibiotic Guardians.