The European Approach to Antimicrobial Resistance: Success Stories and Challenges. Global Health Europe Issue Brief, February 2011
(2011; 10 pages)


The introduction of the first modern antimicrobials to clinical practice in the first half of the 20th century marked a revolution in the treatment of infectious diseases and contributed to the major gains in life expectancy during the second part of the last century. In the case of tuberculosis, the use of antibiotics has reduced mortality from 50 per cent to less than 1 per cent. Thanks to the wide availability of antibiotics in the developed world, it became rare for a patient in those countries to die of an overwhelming infection with no curative options. These impressive results were followed by a period of optimism. In 1967, William H. Stewart, US Surgeon General at the time, famously suggested that it was “time to close the book on infectious diseases” and focus on chronic diseases... The uncontrolled use of antimicrobials and the decline in research created the conditions for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to turn into a real clinical problem. From the 1980s onwards, it became increasingly clear that bacteria were taking advantage of the innovation gap in antimicrobial development and that new resistance mechanisms were spreading rapidly. Unfortunately, an underestimate of the threat posed by AMR and the enormous complexity of the problem resulted in a very limited response to these warning signals...

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