Prevention of antimicrobial resistance requires cooperation across administrative boundaries
Resistance to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, can be prevented by controlling the use of antimicrobial drugs as well as by preventing infections and the spread of drug-resistant microbes. Prevention efforts must take into account people, animals, food and the environment. Antimicrobial drugs must be used correctly and responsibly when treating people and animals. There should be more training and awareness raising on antimicrobial resistance. These issues are highlighted in Finland’s new National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. The action plan was submitted to Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Juha Rehula and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä on 12 May.
Antimicrobial drugs are one of the greatest inventions in medicine. They save lives and make modern human and veterinary medicine possible. Antimicrobial resistance means that the drugs used to treat infections become less effective. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that antimicrobial resistance and climate change are the biggest threats to people and animals, which is why the WHO is calling for its member states to urgently adopt preventive measures.
Finland’s National Action Plan is the outcome of a broad intersectoral collaboration, as required by the WHO. The measures proposed in the action plan aim to address problems detected in the current state. The goal is to keep antimicrobial drugs as effective as possible in Finland.
Global threat to people and animals alike
Antimicrobial-resistant microbes can spread among people and animals as well as through food, water and the environment. They also cross state borders easily.
Last autumn the UN General Assembly put antimicrobial resistance on its agenda. If the efforts to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance are unsuccessful, an estimated 10 million people will die of infections caused by resistant microbes in 2050. The impact on world economy would be massive.
Broad-based actions to prevent antimicrobial resistance
Using less antimicrobial drugs reduces the chances of microbes to develop resistance to drugs. In the best scenario infections are prevented altogether, and drugs are needed less often. Vaccination programmes, good hygiene and animal disease prevention, among other measures, are important because they reduce the risk of infection in both humans and animals. New kinds of therapies and new innovations to treat infections without antibiotics are also needed.
Tourism increases the spread of antimicrobial resistance as resistant microbes cross borders with travellers. For this reason it is important to raise awareness among travellers. The spread of antimicrobial-resistant microbes can also be prevented especially in health and care facilities. New medicines are being developed, but the work is extremely costly and slow.
Monitoring of antimicrobial resistance is necessary for assessing the efficiency of preventive measures and for detecting new threats quickly. It is also important to monitor the use of antimicrobial drugs to ensure correct and responsible use.
The action plan is a collaboration of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Education and Culture. The National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance 2017–2012 was written by Chief Physician Antti Hakanen, Leading Expert Jari Jalava and Senior Inspector Liisa Kaartinen with the support of a multidisciplinary expert group.
Anni-Riitta Virolainen-Julkunen, Ministerial Counsellor, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 2951 63324, [email protected]
Nina Kaario, Senior Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 2951 162 173, [email protected]
Antti Hakanen, Chief Physician, Varsinais-Suomi Hospital District, tel. +358 2 313 7451, [email protected]
Leading Expert Jari Jalava, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), tel. +358 29 524 6629, [email protected]
Liisa Kaartinen, Senior Inspector, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, tel. +358 40 554 2238, [email protected]