Ministers, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank the Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Mette Gjerskov and the Danish Minister for Health Pia Olsen Dyhr for inviting me to be involved in this conference dealing with such a critical issue.
Antimicrobial resistance is a threat to the health and wellbeing of both humans and animals. It is a matter of great concern.
As antimicrobial resistant bacteria do not respect country borders, it is important that all countries throughout the entire European Region work together to combat antimicrobial resistance.
Therefore it is very pleasing to see so many people - gathered from all across Europe – who are dedicated to addressing this issue.
As all of you know, antibiotics are a miracle of modern science and most of us take for granted that we are able to treat infectious diseases.
However, antibiotics have been misused and overused and now we are facing the consequences: The increased development of resistance to antimicrobials.
With an increasing number of bacteria becoming resistant, we are rapidly moving towards an era which could resemble the situation before penicillin was discovered – when people died of common bacterial infections.
People and animals that become infected with resistant bacteria are difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. In an increasing number of patients the most commonly used antibiotics are no longer effective and doctors must prescribe more expensive or last resort drugs. In addition to losing the effectiveness of the drugs available to us now, there are very few antibiotic drugs in the pipeline.
This is frightening...
We need antibiotics to cure infections in people and animals, but we need to be sensible in the way we use them.
Often, people who visit the doctor expect some form of treatment for their condition and from time to time inappropriate medicine is prescribed, which only drives the development of antibiotic resistance. For example, people sometimes take antibiotics for viral illnesses such as a sore throat, which is not effective at all.
Farmers across many parts of Europe are using those antibiotics for animals, which are of critical importance for the treatment of infections in humans.
The emergence of resistance to antibiotics in humans is linked to the use of antibiotics for animals. Therefore, we cannot look at one sector in isolation. A holistic approach must be taken.
To effectively address the problem of antimicrobial resistance we must – amongst other things – focus on the cautious use of antibiotics and raising awareness that certain antibiotics should be used only as a last resort.
And these are focal points of this conference.
As I said earlier, antibiotic resistant bacteria do not respect country borders. Our lifestyle and travel habits today involve trips abroad and imported foreign delicacies.
We enjoy these possibilities but the unwelcome consequence may be the further spread of antimicrobial resistance. Therefore it is important to address antibiotic resistance throughout the European Region as well as outside.
With respect to solving this problem, we cannot rely on the development of new antibiotics alone. We have to face the fact that resistance may grow more rapidly than the research and development of possible new means of treatment.
We all have a role to play to combat antibiotic resistance; those who set the policies and strategies; those who subscribe, those that use; and those who produce, including industry to invest for further research.
And the aim of this conference is in fact – through a collaborative effort from the human and the veterinary sectors – to develop actions, which may effectively combat antimicrobial resistance.
Lastly, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Danish Presidency in hosting this conference and to all of you who have the common goal of keeping antibiotics effective for use by future generations.