The global issue of antimicrobial resistance

Throughout the world, viruses and bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antimicrobial treatments. Switzerland is actively participating in the WHO strategy to limit antimicrobial resistance.

Resistance through mutations

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines antimicrobial resistance as a micro-organism's resistance to an antimicrobial drug that previously killed or inhibited the micro-organism’s growth. This resistance stems from the capacity of certain viruses and bacteria to withstand attack by antiviral or antibiotic drugs respectively. The resistance occurs when the micro-organism mutates and develops a resistance gene.

Accelerated mutations throughout the world

Antimicrobial resistance has been detected everywhere in the world. The problem is becoming increasingly serious and thus constitutes one of the biggest challenges for global health. For example: 3.5% of the new cases of tuberculosis detected in different parts of the world are multi-resistant cases. This development is proceeding at an ever-faster pace due to the inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs, ill-adapted or non-existent programmes, frantic battles against infections, poor quality drugs, lack of laboratory capacity, surveillance deficiencies and weaknesses in legislation governing the use of antimicrobial agents.

The global action plan

As a result of collective work involving the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and civil society, the global action plan calls for measures in five key areas:

  • improving awareness and understanding of antibiotic resistance in the population;
  • improving surveillance and research;
  • reducing the spread of infection through effective sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention measures;
  • optimizing the use of antibiotics in human and animal health;
  • increasing innovation and investment.

Switzerland's involvement

Switzerland supported the adoption of this global action plan at the World Health Assembly in May 2015. As a follow-up at the national level, the National Antibiotic Resistance Strategy (StAR) was adopted in November 2015. In addition, Switzerland has published a comparative study of different national strategies for fighting antimicrobial resistance. This marks a contribution to the Global Health Security Agenda, an initiative launched by the United States in 2014 for fighting communicable diseases.

Last modification 20.05.2019

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