Countries worldwide join forces to step up fight against antimicrobial resistance

International cooperation in fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is to be stepped up. Countries will work together more closely in the future, and a fund is being launched to support action against AMR around the world. The Netherlands pledged an initial $5 million to the new fund. These are the outcomes of an international ministerial conference on antibiotics resistance in Noordwijk, organised by the Netherlands on 18 and 19 June.

Over 200 representatives of around 40 countries, as well as senior figures within the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have convened in Noordwijk to highlight the importance of combating AMR worldwide. AMR is a global problem that kills hundreds of thousands of people a year. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics can make bacteria resistant, so that even a straightforward infection can result in death.

From paper to practice
The Netherlands organised the first ministerial conference on this topic five years ago, which led to countries around the world developing plans to tackle AMR. This year’s conference brings participating countries closer together, pairing them up so that they can learn from each other and help each other combat resistance. Committing to a reciprocal effort is the best way of ensuring that the plans each country has developed are turned into actions on the ground.

‘Combating antibiotics resistance is fundamentally a behaviour change issue,’ medical care and sports minister Bruno Bruins says. ‘I’m not talking about washing hands more often, but about ensuring antibiotics are prescribed less readily and that work methods are changed to reduce the chance of resistant bacteria spreading. And we need to make these changes around the world, because holidaymakers unwittingly spread the bacteria as they travel. That’s why I’ve organised this second ministerial conference. This topic is so important that it deserves to stay at the top of the international political agenda. Countries have made outstanding plans and it’s time now to carry them out. The Multi-Partner Trust Fund that we’re launching today will help us do this because the problem is too big for countries to tackle alone. I’m also proud to see that countries at the conference have made agreements with each other on taking AMR action to the next level. We’ll need to maintain that momentum in the years to come.’
Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, adds: ‘Unfortunately, borders don’t stop bacteria. But by pooling our efforts and knowledge, we can help each other combat AMR. There’s still scope for improving the way antibiotics are used in livestock production, too. This conference is an excellent opportunity to engage in dialogue and learn from each other.’

Bilateral consolidation
Ministers at the conference have agreed their countries will work together more closely and share experiences and lessons learned in order to accelerate and increase the efficiency of action against AMR.

International fund
At the conference, WHO, FAO and OIE will launch a Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) that will support low- and middle-income countries in particular in implementing their AMR policy. For instance, they will be able to obtain funding for surveillance systems, educational programmes on good antibiotics use and developing common programmes aimed at both human and veterinary healthcare. The Netherlands kicks off with a contribution of $5 million to the fund.

New antibiotics
New antibiotics are also essential in preventing resistance. Pharmaceutical companies are often put off by the revenue model – high development costs, low returns – meaning that care providers remain heavily dependent on ineffective types of antibiotics. From 2020 to 2025, host country the Netherlands will annually invest €1 million in the development of new antibiotics. This work will be done under the Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP), a partnership initiative of WHO.

Livestock production
In a recent study by Wageningen University and Research centre, reducing antibiotics use in livestock farming was found to have no negative effects on average production levels or economic results. Nor would reducing antibiotics use compromise the international competitive position of the Dutch broiler and pig production industries. These research findings will also be discussed at the conference, as well as possible ways of reducing antibiotics use in agriculture.