It is a known fact that growing resistance to antibiotics is one of the biggest challenges to public health today. We need to find new ways to prevent new outbreaks of common infections that have been treatable for decades.
The latest EU-wide data on antibiotic resistance in humans, released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on the eve of European Antibiotic Awareness Day on 18 November, show that resistance in certain bacteria has nearly doubled in just three years. In the EU alone, drug-resistant infections lead to around 25 000 deaths each year.
The EU is committed to the global fight against this threat. Since 1999, we have invested nearly €800 million in transnational collaborative research projects on antimicrobial resistance. Under Horizon 2020 we are continuing to help save lives and reduce the €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses the EU incurs each year from drug-resistant infections.
Much of this investment has already borne fruit. For example, the EU-funded NABATIVI project has found a completely new antibiotic that is now in clinical trials in collaboration with a world-leading pharmaceutical company. This is important as only two new classes of antibiotics have been put on the market in the past 30 years.
However, it is equally important to make sure that resistance - largely due to patients taking antibiotics even when they do not need them - does not develop in the first place. That is why the Commission will launch a €1 million inducement prize to address the issue of the unnecessary use of antibiotics in February 2015. This Horizon Prize for Better Use of Antibiotics will be awarded for a cheap and rapid test that allows health care providers to distinguish between upper respiratory tract infections that require antibiotics and those that can be treated safely without them.