Ready for a world without antibiotics? The Pensières Antibiotic Resistance Call to Action
Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control
Ready for a world without antibiotics? The Pensières Antibiotic Resistance Call to Action
Jean Carlet 0 3
Vincent Jarlier 2
Stephan Harbarth 1
Andreas Voss 5
Herman Goossens 4
Didier Pittet 1
for the Participants of the 1
rd World Healthcare-Associated Infections Forum
0 Consultant, WHO African Partnerships for Patient Safety , 9 rue de la Terrasse, 94000 Créteil , France
1 Infection Control Programme and WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety, University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine , 4 Rue Gabrielle-Perret-Gentil, 1211 Geneva 14 , Switzerland
2 UPMC University Paris 6 EA, 154 Laboratory of Bacteriology-Hygiene and Microbiology, Hôpital Pitié-Salpétrière, Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Paris , 47-83 Boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75013 Paris , France
3 Consultant, WHO African Partnerships for Patient Safety , 9 rue de la Terrasse, 94000 Créteil , France
4 Laboratory of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Antwerp , Wilrijkstraat 10, 2650 Edegem , Belgium
5 Canisius-Wilhelmina Ziekenhuis and Radboud University Medical Centre , NTPDRD189, Postbus 9015, 6500 GS, Nijmegen , The Netherlands
Resistance to antibiotics has increased dramatically over the past few years and has now reached a level that places future patients in real danger. Microorganisms such as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which are commensals and pathogens for humans and animals, have become increasingly resistant to third-generation cephalosporins. Moreover, in certain countries, they are also resistant to carbapenems and therefore susceptible only to tigecycline and colistin. Resistance is primarily attributed to the production of beta-lactamase genes located on mobile genetic elements, which facilitate their transfer between different species. In some rare cases, Gramnegative rods are resistant to virtually all known antibiotics. The causes are numerous, but the role of the overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals is essential, as well as the transmission of these bacteria in both the hospital and the community, notably via the food chain, contaminated hands, and between animals and humans. In addition, there are very few new antibiotics in the pipeline, particularly for Gram-negative bacilli. The situation is slightly better for Gram-positive cocci as some potent and novel antibiotics have been made available in recent years. A strong and coordinated international programme is urgently needed. To meet this challenge, 70 internationally recognized experts met for a two-day meeting in June 2011 in Annecy (France) and endorsed a global call to action ("The Pensières Antibiotic Resistance Call to Action”). Bundles of measures that must be implemented simultaneously and worldwide are presented in this document. In particular, antibiotics, which represent a treasure for humanity, must be protected and considered as a special class of drugs.
antibiotic resistance; antibiotic stewardship; infection control; hand hygiene; surveillance networks; care bundles; environment; regulations; human medicine; animal medicine
In the golden age of the discovery of antibiotics, these
potent “miracle” drugs saved millions of lives. In
contrast, we are entering an era where bacterial infections,
such as bloodstream infections and ventilator-associated
pneumonia, might no longer be successfully treated with
]. We now face a dramatic challenge
resulting from two combined problems. First, microorganisms
are becoming extremely resistant to existing antibiotics,
in particular Gram-negative rods (e.g., Escherichia coli,
Salmonella spp, Klebsiella spp, Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
Acinetobacter spp), which are resistant to almost all
currently available antibiotics in some settings. Resistance
can be combined with virulence, acting as a potentially
deadly duo, as observed in the recent large epidemic
outbreak of E. coli 0104:H4 in Europe, notably in
]. Second, the antibiotic pipeline has become
extremely dry [
]. Several new powerful compounds
active against Gram-positive cocci have been made
available in the last few years, but this is not the case
for Gram-negative bacteria and almost no new antibiotic
class active against multiresistant Gram-negative rods
can be anticipated in the near future. Although hard to
imagine, the reality is that many clinicians will soon face
a therapeutic dead end in the treatment of certain types
of severe bacterial infections. This worrisome situation
takes us back to the pre-antibiotic era of the 1930s and
early 1940s [
]. We cannot look at this evolving and
pandemic threat passively and lose one of the most
important drugs discovered in the previous century. We
must act now; silence is not an answer.
In this position paper, we summarize important
messages and conclusions from the 3rd World
HealthcareAssociated Infections (HAI) Forum held in June 2011.
The meeting gathered together 70 leading world experts
and opinion leaders in the domain of antimicrobial
resistance (AMR) from 33 countries to discuss the
challenges and possible options to tackle the problem. The
main objectives were to structure and propose a
hierarchy of the various measures reported in the recent
literature and to collect information on the experiences of
the many countries represented to discuss if some may
be transposable to other nations.
What are the facts about AMR?
Many alarming facts regarding AMR have accumulated,
particularly over the last few years.
– An increase in global resistance rates in many
bacterial species responsible for both community- and
healthcare-related infections, e.g., staphylococci,
enterococci, gonococci, and enterobacteria (including E. coli,
Salmonella spp and Shigella spp), Pseudomonas spp,
Acinetobacter spp, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis)
– The burden of bacteremias due to E. coli, one of the
most common human pathogens, is increasing in
Europe, mainly due (but not only) to resistant strains [
– Emergence and dissemination of new mechanisms
of resistance, e.g., novel extended-spectrum
beta-lactamases (ESBL) and carbapenemases [
]. The spread of
the new resistance gene, the New Delhi
metallo-betalactamase 1 (NDM-1), or other carbapenemases in
Enterobacteriacae is alarming because these “superbugs”
are resistant to most available antibiotics and can
disseminate worldwide very rapidly, in particular as a
consequence of medical tourism [
– The rapid increase in the multiresistance of
Gramnegative rods stands in contrast to a steady decrease in
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
rates following the implementation of successful
infection control programmes in several high-income
countries, such as Belgium, France, United Kingdom (UK),
and the USA [
]. In some other countries,
resistance to both Gram-positive and -negative bacteria is
very high (USA for community-acquired (CA)-MRSA;
Greece, Italy, Portugal, UK, the USA, and many eastern
European and Asian countries for vancomycin-resistant
– Propensity to use last-line therapy (e.g.,
carbapenems) to treat healthcare-related and
communityacquired infections triggered by a fear of infections
caused by ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae, despite
the fact that these antibiotics should be preserved as our
last weapons against multiresistant Gram-negative
– Re-use of old drugs with poor safety and efficacy
profiles and uncertain
pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic characteristics (e.g., colistin) due to a lack of
alternative drugs [
– High morbidity and mortality attributable to
multiresistant bacteria in critically ill patients.
In Europe, the European Centre for Disease
Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that 25,000
people die each year from antibiotic-resistant
In the USA, MRSA is associated with a staggering
90,000 infections and an estimated 19,000 deaths
– Serious financial consequences of bacterial
Multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) result in
massive extra healthcare costs and productivity losses of
at least 1.5 billion euros each year in Europe [
In the USA, the annual cost of AMR in hospitals is
estimated at more than US$ 20 billion with an even
wider clinical impact than human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV)-related disease [
However, these data on morbidity, mortality, and cost
must be considered with caution and may be over- or
underestimated because of a lack of in-depth adjustment
for risk factors or evaluation of the indirect costs of
AMR. Moreover, these figures were calculated before
the pandemic with multiresistant Gram-negative rods.
Therefore, morbidity, mortality, and the associated
economic burden are very likely to increase dramatically
during the next decade [
]. Furthermore, with the
current European financial crisis resulting in massive cuts
in healthcare expenditure and medical research, we can
expect multiresistant bacteria to spread more rapidly in
What are the causes of this frightening evolution?
The most important cause is that there has been a
massive overuse of antibiotics worldwide across all
ecosystems over the past decades, including humans, animals,
aquaculture, and agriculture (Additional files 1 &2).
When selected silently by antibiotics, a hidden
crosstransmission of resistant bacteria occurs daily, both in
hospitals and communities. Compliance with hand
hygiene practices is far from optimal in many healthcare
settings, including hospitals and long-term care facilities
], thus resulting in a continuous succession of
smallsize transmission events difficult to detect, as well as
large outbreaks. Exchange of resistant bacteria via travel
activities and patient transfers has led to a rapidly
growing “resistance globalization” as recently
exemplified by the spread of NDM-1 [
]. As a consequence,
some countries recommend the preemptive isolation of
patients admitted from outside their borders based on a
suspicion of MDRO carriage in the same philosophy as
the “Search and Destroy” programme in The
]. Cross-transmission occurs also in community
settings (e.g., schools, families, daycare centres). Finally,
hospital and community wastewater systems are an
additional source for the dissemination of resistant
In particular, the spread of antibiotic-resistant
Enterobacteriaceae insensitive to third-generation
cephalosporins and carbapenems poses a serious public health
threat. Resistance to these beta-lactams is primarily
attributed to the production of beta-lactamases, ESBLs
and carbapenemases, respectively, and their coding
genes located on mobile genetic elements (e.g.,
plasmids) facilitate intra- and interspecies transfer.
Many countries and healthcare facilities still lack
effective antibiotic stewardship programmes [
continue to be considered as “ordinary” drugs and are
prescribed freely by many different physicians, both in
the community and in hospitals. In general, these
physicians lack appropriate and rigorous training in infectious
diseases and prescribe without any control or help.
When national or local programmes do exist, they have
often transient effects and require sustained and
repeated incentives. As an example, the “Antibiotics are
not automatic” ("Les antibiotiques, c’est pas
automatique”) programme launched in France in the early
2000s had a very positive effect during five years (23%
overall decrease in consumption) [
], but consumption
is now again on the rise [
]. Self-medication, an
important driver of antibiotic overuse, is common, particularly
in developing countries where antibiotics can be bought
over the counter in pharmacies or in local market
places, but it occurs also in Europe, mainly in southern
and eastern countries [
]. Antibiotics are used in
excess, particularly for common colds and upper
respiratory tract syndromes that are mostly of viral
origin. Direct sales via the internet are also increasing and
difficult to control [
], including sales in some
countries of illegal over-the-counter antibiotics and
counterfeit drugs that may contain sub-optimal active antibiotic
Simultaneously, the antibiotic pipeline is drying up for
two reasons (Additional file 3): 1) it is intrinsically
difficult to find new antibiotics with novel mechanisms of
action; and 2) a high cost/benefit and risk/benefit ratio
(length of development, low selling prices, and short
treatments) discourage pharmaceutical companies from
investment. Moreover, bacteria are rapidly developing
when antibiotics are overused, which creates a dilemma
for the profit-driven pharmaceutical industry. Therefore,
new business models must be developed to encourage
research and development arms of companies to engage
in the discovery of new antibiotics, but these discussions
have turned out to be very difficult. In addition, the
financial crisis will probably increase the burden on tax
payers and industry to invest in this field.
Is there any national or international reaction to this
Many national/international meetings, workshops, and
task forces, as well as reports in the scientific literature
and lay press, have been dedicated to this threat over
the last decade, particularly in 2011, but often with a
limited impact due to a lack of coordination
]. Only a few developed countries worldwide
] have managed to reduce antibiotic
consumption in the community and/or successfully
implemented hand hygiene campaigns in their hospitals,
which have sometimes resulted, but not always, in a
decrease in resistance. However, despite these efforts,
resistance among Gram-negative rods has increased
dramatically in parallel, while co-existing with good results
for the decrease of MRSA infection .
Europe, in particular through the European Union
(EU) Directorate General for Health and Consumers
http://www.ec.europa.edu/dgs/health_consumer/) and the ECDC http://www.ecdc.europa.eu,
supports and organizes comprehensive and
well-validated surveillance networks for AMR and antibiotic
consumption, which has allowed to monitor the impact
of these interventions [
]. ECDC and the European
Medicines Agency (EMA; http://www.ema.europa.eu)
have jointly organized a meeting and urged
pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the search for new
antibiotics . In 2009, a Transatlantic Taskforce for
Antimicrobial Resistance (TATFAR; http://ecdc.europa.
aspx?MasterPage=1) was established during the
Swedish EU presidency to promote a mutual understanding
of US and European activities and programmes related
to AMR issues [
]. A list of 17 recommendations was
generated in 2011, but with no incentives on how to
reach its stated objectives and no mandate to address
the global aspects of this problem http://ecdc.europa.
Regional and international networks or alliances have
been developed also with various actions proposed, i.e.,
Action on Antibiotic Resistance (REACT; http://www.
reactgroup.org), Alliance for the Prudent Use of
Antibiotics (APUA; http://www.tufts.edu/med/apua/), the
European Society for Clinical Microbiology and
Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Study Group on Antibiotic
], and the Alliance against
]. Finally, in 2011, the World Health
Organization (WHO) dedicated the World Health Day to the
topic of antimicrobial resistance with the aim to
highlight it as a global threat and to call for consolidated
efforts to avoid regressing to the pre-antibiotic era
index.html. Hopefully, this will be the starting point for
tangible and sustained efforts by WHO through a
Are we ready for a world without antibiotics?
The answer is clearly no! Today, antibiotics are critical
to treat bacterial infections. Indeed, there are very few
therapeutic compounds, if any, able to modulate the
inflammatory burst during severe sepsis [
therapy could represent a key component of the
antibacterial armamentarium of the future, but it is too early to
rely on this solution on a routine basis [
Antimicrobial peptides are deceiving, particularly when used
]. Bacteriophages are tempting, but are not
usable by the intravenous route and have not been
carefully evaluated so far [
]. Resistance is also an issue
with this strategy. Some plants or aromatic substances
(e.g., essential oils) may have very interesting
antibacterial and antitoxin activities, but again we are far from
their use in daily practice [
]. Probiotics have been
mentioned as a possible alternative, but could be
considered today more as a complement than as a real
therapeutic solution. Vaccination is certainly the most
promising preventive strategy, but remains limited to a
relatively small number of bacteria [
], although there
are promising new vaccines entering phase III studies
against S. aureus and Clostridium difficile. Without any
doubt, antibiotics remain the cornerstone of
antibacterial management and they are still acutely needed for the
next generations. It is our duty to protect them.
Can we rely on recent positive and transposable programmes?
The answer is clearly yes, but the examples are few.
Education, legislation, and improved diagnosis can
reduce antibiotic consumption. Several clinical trials at
the community level, have shown that patient education
can result in the decrease of the use of antibiotics [
The Patients for Patient Safety branch of the WHO
Patient Safety Programme has shown that patients can
and should have a very active role in making healthcare
safer and will be examining how to integrate
information on antibiotic resistance within its global training
group for 2012
http://www.who.int/patientsafety/patients_for_patient/en/. The EU has established a strategy
against AMR to encourage the prudent use of these
agents in human medicine. Several countries have
launched national campaigns to educate physicians and
patients about antimicrobial misuse and the threat of
The French campaign, often considered as a model,
exceeded expectations with a 23% reduction in the
number of antibiotic prescriptions over the first five years [
However, nine years after the launch, there are still major
concerns about the way in which physicians and patients
in France prescribe and consume antibiotics. Despite the
sharp reduction of antibiotic prescriptions observed,
especially among children, France remains a high user of
antibiotics, just behind Greece and Cyprus [
The Belgian Antibiotic Policy Coordination
Committee (BAPCOC) organized several national campaigns,
financially supported by the government. These
multimedia campaigns, launched in 1999 and targeting the
general public, resulted in a 36% decrease in antibiotic
prescription in the community between 1999 and 2007
] and decreased antibiotic resistance in Streptococcus
pneumoniae and S. pyogenes. The hand hygiene
campaigns, launched in 2005 and targeting patients admitted
to hospital and healthcare workers, resulted in an
increase in hand hygiene compliance and alcohol-based
handrub use in hospitals and decreased
However, some national campaigns, e.g., Australia,
England, Greece, and Spain, have failed to show a major
impact on antibiotic prescriptions [
]. In the USA,
some very positive results have been obtained for
HAMRSA, but not for CA-MRSA, VRE, and ESBL-carrying
]. In Israel, some interesting
results have been obtained in the use of antibiotics in
] and the successful containment of the
pandemic with Gram-negative rods [
]. To control
selfmedication, the Chilean Ministry of Health has strictly
enforced existing laws restricting the purchase of
antibiotics without medical prescription since 1999. These
regulatory measures have resulted in a 43% decrease in
antimicrobial use in the outpatient setting, which
represents a remarkable result [
]. Further interesting results
from other countries were highlighted by poster
presentations displayed during the meeting and are discussed
by Jarlier et al in this issue [
Nevertheless, despite targeted information and
awareness-raising campaigns, the general public has still
preconceived ideas concerning antibiotics and their effects.
For example, according to a Pan-European survey
published in 2010, 53% of Europeans still believe that
antibiotics kill viruses and 47% that they are effective
against colds and influenza. Large variations between
countries were observed and knowledge increased in
countries with targeted media campaigns, such as
Belgium. Education remains an immense challenge [
Time for international coordinated actions to save antibiotics
In response to this global public health threat, 70
leading international experts formulated “The Pensières
Antibiotic Resistance Call to Action” during a two-day
meeting held in Annecy (France) in June 2011. Lectures
were given on a wide range of topics with extensive and
in-depth discussion. Each participant presented data and
the results of country-specific intervention programmes
targeted at the control of AMR and
healthcare-associated infection, such as infection prevention and
control and antibiotic stewardship strategies. Thirty-four
posters provided for the first time a unique overview of
actions and policies in place worldwide in 29 countries
with an evaluation of their degree of efficacy. At the end
of the meeting, participants were asked to rank a series
of 25 actions linked to the topics highlighted using a
multi-voting system [
A coordinated programme based on six main lines of
action was defined as follows: 1) a worldwide upgrade in
infection control practices to limit resistant bacteria
cross-transmission; 2) a worldwide antibiotic
stewardship strategy to decrease antibiotic pressure on bacteria;
3) the improved use of diagnostic techniques; 4) an
acceleration in the discovery and development of new
antibiotics, particularly targeting Gram-negative bacteria;
5) the acceleration of vaccine development programmes,
and 6) a strong educational programme for both
healthcare practitioners, consumers, and children.
The programme is conceived as a “bundle” whose
different components should be implemented
simultaneously. Implementing only one line of action or
selecting only some components will very likely lead to
failure. Such a multifaceted programme looks easy to
implement, but is in fact a serious challenge. Although
the multiple actors to involve have different
backgrounds and interests, such as the hospital, community,
and human and animal medicine, and may not work
spontaneously together, cooperation between all is the
key to success.
A strong political commitment at international,
national, and local levels is of paramount importance to
trigger such an ambitious programme. This is absolutely
essential. Recent national or international programmes
should be evaluated. Healthcare professionals will need
the strong involvement of policy makers through to
hospital managers to ensure its adoption. It will take many
years to obtain significant results and we will certainly
never return to the pre-antibiotic era where all
pathogens were fully susceptible to antibiotics. But we have
no choice and must preserve antibiotics for the next
generations. We must realize also that such a
programme is not aiming at simply saving money–and
could even increase healthcare costs initially–but it will
become eventually cost-effective when taking a
Effective infection control programmes must be implemented worldwide
The importance of a coordinated programme combining
infection control with other actions in a rational and
sustainable manner, e.g., antibiotic stewardship, must be
strongly emphasized. Prevention of cross-transmission
and epidemics must be based on a multifaceted strategy
that should include appropriate screening policies, use
of universal precautions, improved hand hygiene,
particularly through the systematic recourse to alcohol-based
handrub formulations (ABHRs), and specific contact
precautions when appropriate (i.e., geographic isolation
measures and cohorting). However, several of these
measures remain controversial and costly. For instance,
it remains unknown if specific isolation precautions are
better than standard precautions if the latter are strictly
and permanently applied, which so far is hard to obtain
]. Rapid diagnostic methods are needed more than
ever to detect patients colonized by MDROs and the
Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI;
http://www.imieuropa.edu) is investing 15 million euros in the
RAPPID project (Development of Rapid Point-of-Care Test
Platforms for Infectious Diseases; http://www.rapp-id.eu)
to develop new diagnostic tools for bloodstream
infections, lower respiratory tract infections, and tuberculosis.
It is to be hoped that some promising ongoing
EUfunded projects will help to find new solutions, e.g.,
“Mastering hOSpital Antimicrobial Resistance”
(MOSAR; http://www.Mosar-sic.org); “Impact of Specific
Antibiotic Therapies on the prevalence of hUman host
ResistaNt bacteria” (SATURN;
http://www.saturn-project.edu); and “Resistance in Gram-Negative Organisms:
Studying Intervention Strategies” (R-GNOSIS; http://
Successful measures for controlling MRSA are
probably not sufficient to prevent the spread of ESBL or
carbapenemases for several reasons: far higher bacterial
load in the gut for Gram-negative rods; fecal excretion;
dissemination through waste; transferable resistance
genes on plasmid or transposons; lack of effective
decolonization regimens; or the substantial role of antibiotic
selection pressure by commonly misused drugs.
Although MRSA bloodstream infections are decreasing
in many European countries, infections due to
ESBLproducing Gram-negative rods are increasing in these
same countries. To succeed in combating these
Gramnegative rods, there is a need to upgrade and tailor the
prevention of cross-transmission outside hospitals (e.g.,
in nursing homes, families, daycare centres, and schools)
and to take into account environmental aspects.
Moreover, those actors with an important role to play, such
as specialists in infection control and healthcare
managers, have been somewhat paralyzed in front of the
ESBL invasion, although sometimes simultaneously very
active against MRSA or VRE.
The WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge “Clean
Care is Safer Care” is a striking example of a
programme that could provide guidance, boost hand
hygiene promotion initiatives worldwide, including in
developing countries. Proof of effectiveness of additional
actions will hopefully be provided by ongoing studies
]. Quality indicators are needed to assess the
performance of hand hygiene procedures in hospitals, e.g.,
surrogate markers such as the volume of ABHR
consumption (used in France, Belgium, and Germany)
or, even better, the compliance rate with procedures (e.
g., in Australia) as proposed by the WHO strategy [
Population migration and health tourism are
unavoidable components of the modern era. Hospitals accepting
international patients must follow excellent infection
control practices and antibiotic stewardship policies in
practice and not just on paper, including qualified and
trained infection control teams and a hospital
management willing to accept their recommendations.
Active protection of antibiotics (part of the so-called
Antibiotics are natural gifts belonging to humanity and
strategies for their active protection must be developed
in a philosophy of “sustainable development” [
worldwide implementation of antibiotic stewardship
programmes is of paramount importance [
should be based on a multidisciplinary approach aimed
at the optimal selection, dosage, and duration of
antimicrobial treatment resulting in the best clinical outcome
for treatment or prevention of infection with minimal
toxicity to the patient, and minimal impact on
subsequent resistance. The reason for the prescription and
the planned duration of therapy (as well as diagnosis
whenever possible) should be indicated on every patient
chart. Indeed, in some countries, including the EU,
many hospital physicians prescribe antibiotics without
mentioning the reason in the patient notes . Finally,
some antibiotics should probably be reserved exclusively
for human usage. However, there is no consensus with
the veterinary world on this measure.
A concerted international programme should induce a
marked decrease in the overall consumption of
antibiotics in every sector of human and animal medicine,
aquaculture, and agriculture. There is no specific culprit
and all antibiotic prescribers must work together. A
strong and sustained cooperation between healthcare
professionals and consumers (antibiotic users) in an
ecological and civic attitude is pivotal for the success of
these programmes. Antibiotics must be considered as a
specific class of drugs [
], a central concept that will
have many consequences in terms of legislation,
particularly at the European level. A major breakthrough would
be obtained if antibiotics could be included in the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) global heritage list for humanity to
demonstrate and raise awareness of their long-term
importance for human health http://www.whc.unesco.
org. Finally, it is of paramount importance to realize
that in many countries there is a very limited access to
antibiotics, which impairs safety of care. A balance
between appropriate usage and access to antibiotics is
needed. These two actions are not mutually exclusive,
Diagnosis of bacterial infection and antibiotic resistance
must be more rapid
Rapid diagnostic tests should be urgently developed to
help physicians to target the organisms causing the
infection. Physicians should not rely only on fever,
which is very often due to non-bacterial infections, to
prescribe antibiotics. Unfortunately, microbiology
diagnostic techniques have not evolved much since Pasteur
and others were able to grow bacteria at the end of the
19th century, and many of their culture methods are still
used today in our routine clinical diagnostic
New rapid diagnostic tools, such as point-of-care
testing or biomarkers, should be used more widely. These
are already available for several microorganisms,
including C. difficile and MRSA. Simple tests are available to
detect Streptococcus pyogenes in the throat, but often
not used by general practitioners (5 to 15% in adults;
30% in children [
]. Urinary sticks are sensitive enough
to avoid treating most patients with a suspicion of
urinary tract infection, particularly in long-term care
facilities. Procalcitonin can help to differentiate viral and
bacterial bronchitis [
The development of new tools should be encouraged
to help clinicians not to treat patients with antibiotics
when bacterial infection is ruled out or, conversely, to
help them to prescribe the right antibiotic through rapid
identification of the bacteria involved and its antibiotic
susceptibility. Re-evaluation of therapy at days two or
three should be systematic in all types of practice.
Appropriate biomarkers [
] and therapeutic algorithms
that include de-escalation strategies will help to reduce
the length of therapy and optimize the choice of drugs
]. After a long period where antibiotic therapy has
been mostly empiric in many countries, including the
USA, it is time to teach and treat infectious diseases
based on diagnostic evidence. This will represent a
dramatic change in our paradigm of care and a real
New antibiotics are urgently needed and must be efficiently protected
WHO, TATFAR, the Infectious Diseases Society of
America (IDSA), and European institutions, as well as
healthcare professionals, have proposed measures and
incentives to fix the broken antibiotic pipeline and
encourage biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies
to invest in the development of new antibacterial agents,
particularly against Gram-negative bacteria. In 2010,
IDSA launched a new initiative entitled “10 × 20” to
mobilize key leaders, research institutions, and scientific
associations to create an antibacterial research and
development enterprise powerful enough to produce 10
new antibiotics by the year 2020 http://www.idsociety.
]. Fast-track designation for the
development of new drugs (similar to orphan drugs) to help get
them earlier to the patient, high prices for antibiotics
with a high value compared to others, including active
protection and follow-up, are actions that will help to
develop new drugs and protect them when marketed.
Prolongation of antibiotic patents has been proposed,
but remains controversial [
]. The IMI and the
European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and
Associations (EFPIA; http://www.efpia.org) are currently
discussing mechanisms to jointly develop new
A strong educational programme must be made available
worldwide for both healthcare professionals and
It is of paramount importance that both professionals
and consumers understand that the two main causes of
antibiotic resistance are their overuse in both humans,
animals, and agriculture. A complicity between these
two groups is key to the success of such a programme.
We need also to provide information to children and to
promote and establish large programmes such as the
Pan-European e-Bug project http://www.e-bug-edu
]. In turn, these children will teach their parents
and other family members and will become more clever
consumers of healthcare than we have ever been.
We have overused and abused antibiotics in both
humans and animals with huge variations between
]. Today, we have regular and precise
barometers to survey resistance levels and antibiotic
]. Resistance of bacteria to antibiotics has
reached levels that place the human race in real danger.
Immediate, vigorous, and coordinated measures must be
taken worldwide to save and protect the erosion of
existing antibiotics and facilitate the appearance of new
and potent antibiotics, active in particular against
Gramnegative bacilli [
]. This will need a profound
change in the way we diagnose and treat infectious
diseases . Dramatic change will be needed also in the
way we behave in hospitals and in the community
concerning both antibiotic therapy and infection prevention
and control measures [
]. Educational programmes
targeting both healthcare professionals and consumers,
including children, are urgently needed. A strong
cooperation and complicity between healthcare providers,
including researchers and consumers, is the real key to
Additional file 1
Antibiotic use, misuse, and abuse
Half of all antibiotic consumption may be unnecessary
and greatly contributes to increasing bacterial resistance
]. In Europe (29 countries), the overall human
consumption of antimicrobials was 3350 tons in 2007 [
Outpatient consumption varies widely from 11 defined
daily doses (DDD) per 1000 inhabitants in The
Netherlands to 34 DDD per 1000 inhabitants in Cyprus [
In the USA, 3300 tons of antibiotics were sold [
Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections
But they are often prescribed for self-limiting
illnesses, such as colds and influenza, caused by
viruses that will not respond to antibacterial drugs.
Diagnostic uncertainty is a key driver of drug
misuse and overuse. Since classical laboratory methods,
based on culture of the pathogenic agent, require
36-48 hours to provide results, few infections are
In the absence of a clear diagnosis, physicians
often prescribe antibiotics just “to be on the safe
side” or to prevent possible secondary bacterial
In addition, patients often put pressure on
physicians. In a survey conducted in the USA, nearly half
(48%) of respondents indicated that they expected an
antibiotic when they visit a doctor [
] In another
survey, more than 50% of French interviewees
expected an antibiotic for the treatment of
influenza-like illness [
It is often falsely assumed that inappropriate use of antibiotics cannot harm
According to the US Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 150,000 cases
per year present to US emergency departments for
antimicrobial-related adverse events [
Incorrect use of antibiotics accelerates AMR. In
this respect, AMR is like pollution: it has so little
immediately perceptible effect that in the absence of
regulation, nothing changes [
Patient compliance with recommended treatment is
another major problem
Patients forget to take medication or may be
unable to afford a full course. They tend to consider
antibiotics as antipyretics that treat symptoms and
stop taking them as soon as they feel better.
Self-medication is also an important driver of
It has been observed in the USA [
] and Europe
], particularly for self-limiting illnesses mostly
caused by viruses.
It is especially prevalent in developing countries
where antibiotics can be bought over the counter in
pharmacies or even in the local market place.
Sales via the internet drive self-medication; they
are on the rise and difficult to control [
Additional file 2
Antibiotic use in animals: a major concern for public
health and the environment
Resistance to antibiotics is increasing both in
commensal and pathogenic bacteria, raising an emerging threat
to public health and the environment. Antimicrobial
administration to food animals is among the most
important factors contributing to the selection of
antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that can be transmitted from
animals to humans. More than half of all antibiotics
produced globally are used in animals [
]. In the USA
alone, animal agriculture consumes 80% of all antibiotics
]. According to a first-ever estimate of the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA), the amount of
antibiotics sold for use in food animals in the USA was over
13,000 tons (29 million pounds) in 2009 [
overall national sales of veterinary antimicrobials in 10
European countries was approximately 3500 tons of active
substance in 2007 [
]. In 2009, French sales of
veterinary antimicrobials were 1067 tons [
Antimicrobial use and animal husbandry
Antimicrobials are used by veterinary practitioners for
the treatment and control of infectious diseases in a
wide variety of farm and companion animal species.
Antibiotic treatment of sick animals is common
practice. When a certain percentage of farm animals or
certain species (e.g., flocks of broiler chickens or salmon
pens) are affected, the entire group is treated, including
animals that are not infected. Sub-therapeutic levels of
antibiotics are also administered to animals for the
prevention of bacterial infections to compensate poor
production practices, often without prescription.
Low levels of antibiotic agents are frequently added to
animal feed for growth promotion in livestock (mostly
in the production of pigs, broiler chickens, turkeys, and
feedlot cattle) [
]. This is particularly problematic
because antibiotic growth promoters are used without
veterinary prescriptions or administered for long periods
of time at sub-therapeutic concentrations to entire
groups or herds of animals. This favours the selection
and spread of resistant bacteria [
On January 1 2006, the EU banned the feeding of all
antibiotics and related drugs to livestock for growth
promotion purposes [
]. The USA has not yet
implemented similar control policies for antibiotic use in animal
agriculture. However, a recently issued FDA Guidance
to Industry called for the use of antibiotics in
food-producing animals only when needed to ensure animal
health, including phasing in veterinary oversight and
consultation, and has attracted growing support within
Congress for new legislation [
Transmission of resistant bacteria from animals to humans
Widespread use of antimicrobials for disease control and
growth promotion in animals has been paralleled by an
increase in resistance in those bacteria in animals.
Resistant bacteria then spread among groups of animals,
including fish, or to the local environment (adjacent
soil, air, and water) through the spreading of manure.
– Through long-term survival and transfer of resistant
genes to the resident flora [
] Studies carried out in
The Netherlands have shown that the proportion of
resistant bacteria containing antibiotic resistance genes
in the soil has significantly increased since 1940 [
– Through direct contact between farm animals and
humans (e.g., farmers, farm visitors) The same strains of
MRSA have been found in livestock and livestock
workers in The Netherlands, Italy, Canada and the USA
– Through contaminated food
Although correct cooking kills bacteria, contamination
can occur through improper handling before cooking.
Many of the antimicrobial-resistant E. coli strains that
cause urinary tract and bloodstream infections in
humans appear likely to have been acquired from
contaminated retail meat.
In The Netherlands, 94% of a representative sample of
chicken retail meat was contaminated with
ESBL-producing E. coli isolates, of which 39% were also found in
human clinical samples tested in 31 microbiological
]. An association between the
approval of fluoroquinolones for use in food-producing
animals and the development of
fluoroquinoloneresistant Salmonella and Campylobacter in animals and
humans has been observed in several countries
]. Reports of the spread of multidrug resistant
Salmonella Schwarzengrund from chickens to humans
in Thailand and from imported Thai food products to
humans in Denmark and the USA [
Use of antibiotics in food animals may result in the deposition of residues in animal products and the environment
Consumption of antibiotic residues represents a
potential threat to human health, through direct toxicity,
allergic reactions, or alteration of the bacterial flora
present in the human digestive tract [
To safeguard humans from exposure to
antibioticadded food, a withholding period must be observed
until the residues are no longer detected before the
animal or animal products can be processed. Heavy
responsibility is placed on the veterinarian and livestock
producer to observe the period of withdrawal. In
Europe, rapid tests are regularly performed to check the
absence of antibiotic residues in food.
Eliminating the unnecessary usage of antibiotics
implies a change in mindset, integrating both long-term
public health concerns and productivity. This involves
everyone – from governments to producers to the
consumer. To stem the rising threat of resistant bacteria to
human health, there is an urgent need for regulation of
antibiotic usage in animals at the global level.
Additional file 3
The antibiotic pipeline is running dry
In the past, the discovery of potent new classes of
antimicrobials allowed to provide therapeutic options for
newly emerging AMR. During the 30 years following the
introduction of penicillin, scientists discovered a wide
range of antimicrobials to treat bacterial diseases. By the
early 1970s, 11 distinct antibiotic classes and more than
270 antibiotics had been brought into clinical use [
The process of novel antimicrobial discovery has
slowed to a virtual standstill. Most antimicrobials
introduced since the early 1970s have been chemical
modifications of previously discovered classes of drugs
]. The promise of genomics in discovering new
antibiotic entities has remained largely unfulfilled to date.
Pharmaceutical companies have curtailed their
antiinfective research programmes
Of the 15 companies with previous had antibiotic
discovery programmes, only 5 still maintain an active
research and development capacity in antibiotics [
According to two recent reports from IDSA [
the ECDC and EMEA [
], there are only a few
candidates in company pipelines.
Only 15 antibiotics under development (mostly in
the early phases) present a new mechanism of action
with the potential to meet the challenge of multidrug
resistance. Of these, only two, both in the early
development phase, may be active against multidrug- resistant
Gram-negative bacteria, a group of bacteria causing
serious therapeutic concerns due to their increasingly high
resistance to antibiotics.
Why is the antibiotic pipeline drying up?
The discovery and development of new antimicrobials is
an expensive and time-consuming process.
Pharmaceutical companies must prioritize competing projects and
antibiotic development has a lower priority than other
competing drugs in the portfolio.
In the late 1960s, infectious diseases were thought to
be conquered, opening the way for a shift in resources
to chronic conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular
The limited duration of antibiotic treatments makes
them less profitable than other drugs prescribed for
years to treat chronic conditions, such as hypertension
There is strong competition with other drugs already
on the market. While resistance is an emerging problem,
low-priced generic antibiotics on the market are still
effective in treating most infections and are used as
New antibiotics may be kept as last-resort
treatments, resulting in low sales for companies.
New antimicrobials can also have a limited lifespan
because of the development of resistance.
Modifications in regulatory procedures have been
perceived as having created an “unfriendly”
environment. Regulators have been demanding demonstrations
of the relative efficacy of new antibiotics versus those
already registered within tighter statistical parameters, i.
e., shifting from “non-inferiority” to “superiority” trials
Additional file 1: Antibiotic use, misuse, and abuse. Supplementary
list of the main issues discussed (references [
Additional file 2: Antibiotic use in animals: a major concern for
public health and the environment. Supplementary list of the main
issues discussed (references [
Additional file 3: The antibiotic pipeline is running dry.
Supplementary list of the main issues discussed (references [
List of abbreviations
ABHRs: alcohol-based handrubs; AMR: antimicrobial resistance; APUA:
Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics; BABCOC: Belgian Antibiotic Policy
Coordination Committee; CA-MRSA: community-acquired methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus; CDC: Centers for Disease Prevention and Control;
DDD: defined daily dose; DG-SANCO: Directorate General for Health and
Consumers; ECDC: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control;
EFPIA: European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations;
EMEA: European Medicines Agency; ESGAP: European Society for Clinical
Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Study Group on Antibiotic
Policies; EU: European Union; ESBL: extended-spectrum beta-lactamase; FDA:
Food and Drug Administration; HA-MRSA: hospital-acquired
methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus; HIV: human immunodeficiency virus; IDSA:
Infectious Diseases Society of America; IMI: Innovative Medicines Initiative;
MDROs: multidrug-resistant organisms; MOSAR: Mastering; hOSpital:
Antimicrobial Resistance; MRSA: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus;
NDM-1: New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1; RAPP-ID: Development of
Rapid Point-of-Care Test Platforms for Infectious Diseases; REACT: Action on
Antibiotic Resistance; R-GNOSIS: Resistance in Gram-Negative Organisms:
Studying Intervention Strategies; SATURN: Impact of Specific Antibiotic
Therapies on the prevalence of hUman host ResistaNt bacteria; TATFAR:
Transatlantic Taskforce for Antimicrobial Resistance; UK: United Kingdom;
UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization;
USA: United States of America; VRE: vancomycin-resistant enterococci; WHO:
World Health Organization
We thank Isabelle Caniaux for her excellent support and organization of the
meeting and Marie-Françoise Gros for her help in focusing the messages
contained in the call for action. We thank Rosemary Sudan for editing this
document with patience and professionalism.
Source of funding
bioMérieux organized the 3rd World Forum on Healthcare-Associated
Infections and funded the participation of attendees. The funding body had
no role in the collection and interpretation of data presented, including the
writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to submit the manuscript for
List of participants to the 3rd World Forum on Healthcare-Associated
Infections, Annecy, France, 27-29 June 2011
ABDUL GHAFUR Kulakkattil, Chennai, India; ALLEGRANZI Benedetta, Geneva,
Switzerland; AWANG JALIL Nordiah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; BALKHY Hanan,
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; BAVESTRELLO Luis, Viña del Mar, Chile; CANTON Rafael,
Madrid, Spain; CARLET Jean, Créteil, France; CARMELI Yehuda, Tel Aviv, Israel;
COIGNARD Bruno, Saint Maurice, France; CONA Erna, Santiago de Chile,
Chile; CONLY John, Calgary, Canada; COOKSON Barry, London, UK; CORSO
Alejandra, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CREMIEUX Anne Claude, Garches, France;
CYRILLO Marcos Antonio, Sao Paulo, Brazil; DURLACH Ricardo Augusto,
Buenos Aires, Argentina; DUSE Adriano, Houghton, South Africa; FANNING
Seamus, Dublin, Ireland; GASTMEIER Petra, Berlin, Germany; GOLDMANN
Donald, Boston, USA; GOOSSENS Herman, Antwerp, Belgium; GOTTLIEB
Thomas, Woollahra, Australia; GRAYSON Lindsay, Melbourne, Australia;
GUZMAN BLANCO Manuel, Caracas, Venezuela; HARBARTH Stephan, Geneva,
Switzerland; HAUSTEIN Thomas, Geneva, Switzerland; HERWALDT Loreen,
Iowa, USA; HOLLIS Aidan, Calgary, Canada; HOLMES Alison, London, UK;
HOSOGLU Salih, Diyarbakir, Turkey; HRYNIEWICZ Waleria, Warsaw, Poland; HU
Bijie, Shanghai, China; JAGGI Namita, Gurgaon-Haryana, India; JARLIER
Vincent, Paris, France; JARVIS William, Port Orford, USA; KAKU Mitsuo, Sendai,
Japan; KIM Eui-Chong, Seoul, Korea; KLUGMAN Keith, Atlanta, USA;
KLUYTMANS Jan, Breda, The Netherlands; LING Moi Lin, Singapore;
MARTINEZ-MARTINEZ Luis, Santander, Spain; McGOWAN John, Atlanta, USA;
MEHTAR Shaheen, Cape Town, South Africa; MORO Maria Luisa, Bologna,
Italy; NATHWANI Dilip, Dundee, UK; NDOYE Babacar, Dakar, Senegal; NICOLLE
Lindsay, Winnipeg, Canada; NORDMANN Patrice, Le-Kremlin-Bicetre, France;
PATERSON David, Bulimba, Australia; PERENCEVICH Eli, Iowa City, USA; PERL
Trish, Baltimore, USA; PITTET Didier, Geneva, Switzerland; RICHTMANN
Rosanna, São Paulo, Brazil; ROSSI Flavia, São Paulo, Brazil; RYAN John,
European Commission, Luxembourg; SAMORE Mattew, Utah, USA; SETO
Wing Hong, Hong Kong, SAR, China; SIFUENTES OSORNIO José, Mexico City,
Mexico; SKOV Robert, Copenhagen, Denmark; SOMOGYI PEREZ Teresa, San
José, Costa Rica; SRINIVASAN Arjun, Atlanta, USA; TACCONELLI Evelina, Rome,
Italy; TSAKRIS Athanassios, Athens, Greece; UPHAM Garance, Prevessin,
France; VALLEJO Martha, Medellin, Columbia; VAN BELKUM Alex, La Balme
Les Grottes, France; VANDENBROUCKE-GRAULS Christina, Amsterdam, The
Netherlands; VANHEMS Philippe, Lyon, France; VOSS Andreas, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands; WALSH Timothy, Cardiff, UK.
JC conceived and drafted the manuscript and produced the different
versions, in particular the reference list. VJ and DP provided an extensive
review of the first draft of the manuscript. DP, SH, HG, and AV reviewed the
manuscript and provided important intellectual content. All attendees to the
meeting were given the possibility to comment on the content. All authors
have read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
The content of this paper expresses the views of the experts co-authoring it
and in no way represents the position of their affiliations.
Jean Carlet has served as a consultant for Biomerieux, Astra-Zeneca, Astellas,
Thermo-Fisher, Da Voltera, and Aromatechnologies. John Conly has received
honoraria from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
for work as an expert reviewer and clinical expert, respectively, for projects
on the role of rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for MRSA in
hospitalized patients, and the use of vancomycin or metronidazole for the
treatment of C. difficile colitis. He has also received speaker’s honoraria
related to new antibacterial agents from Janssen-Ortho, Pfizer, and Astellas
Pharma during the past five years. All other authors declare no competing
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