Antibiotic resistance a ‘threat to public safety’ in Europe

Increasing bacterial resistance across Europe, particularly to carbapenems and polymixin antibiotics, is a “threat to public safety”, according to the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Data released by the ECDC to coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November 2014) show that, although resistance to carbapenems has remained at a low level in most European countries, it increased from 4.6% in 2010 to 8.3% in 2013[1]

Carbapenems are a “last-line” defence against healthcare-associated infections, including Klebsiella pneumoniae. Polymixins are essential for treating infections that are not susceptible to carbapenems.

Data on resistance to polymixins were collected by the ECDC for the first time in 2013. They show that K pneumoniae is becoming more resistant to these antibiotics. Although the ECDC says that the data should be interpreted with caution owing to the low numbers of isolates tested and differences in laboratory procedures, it warns that increasing resistance to polymixins is “a cause for serious concern and a threat to public safety”.

It adds: “Resistance to polymixins is an important reminder that therapeutic options are becoming even more limited.”

Resistance to Escherichia coli also continues to increase. More than half the E coli isolates reported were resistant to at least one antibiotic.

Data collected on Staphylococcus aureus show that, although there were large inter-country variations (under 1% to over 60%), the percentage resistant to meticillin continued to decrease overall between 2010 and 2013.


[1] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Antimicrobial resistance surveillance in Europe 2013. Annual Report of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net). Stockholm: ECDC; 2014.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, November 2014;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20067198