Measures against antibiotic resistance

More and more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. This makes it more difficult for doctors to treat bacterial infections. The problem is so urgent that measures need to be taken at international level as well as in the Netherlands.

Why are more bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics?

The more an antibiotic is used, by people and for animals, the more likely bacteria are to get used to the drug. They adapt so that the antibiotic does not kill them.

Superbugs are bacteria that have become resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. They have more chance to develop when antibiotics are not used correctly, for instance when patients do not complete the full course of antibiotics or when animals are given antibiotics to prevent illness.

Why is antibiotic resistance a growing threat to public health?

Antibiotics cannot clear up a superbug infection. Conditions that have always been easy to treat, like cystitis or a post-operative infection, could take a more serious turn. They can even become life-threatening.

How are multidrug-resistant bacteria transmitted?

Resistant bacteria spread in different ways. People can become infected through direct contact with animals or other people. They can pick up a superbug when they visit a hospital or when travelling. Scientists also think people can get the bacteria by eating infected food, such as meat from infected animals which has not been thoroughly cooked.

How are the authorities fighting antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is a major problem. Public authorities are taking measures against antibiotic resistance wherever necessary to protect people’s health. The One Health approach recognises that the health of humans is related to the health of animals and the environment:

  • Antibiotics in health care
    The government and the healthcare sector have agreed to cut back antibiotic use in health care. Doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics for the wrong reasons. These unnecessary prescriptions must be halved within five years.
  • Antibiotics in the livestock industry
    The government, livestock farmers and veterinarians have agreed on strict rules for use of antibiotics. The aim is to keep animals healthy without giving them antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
  • Developing new antibiotics and new approaches
    It is important that new antibiotics and non-antibiotic approaches are developed to replace antibiotics that no longer work. The government is encouraging drug companies to develop these new medicines.
  • Antibiotics and food
    Researchers are studying how superbugs on food can be transmitted to people. Understanding how this works will enable the government to introduce effective measures.
  • Antibiotics in the environment
    Resistant bacteria are also found in soil, air and water. The government has asked researchers to find out how to stop the superbugs spreading in the environment.
  • International cooperation
    Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide. Dutch authorities are working with other countries and international organisations to tackle this problem.