Antimicrobial resistance, which has been increasing at a disturbing rate, is now considered a threat to planetary health. The consequences of antimicrobial resistance are even now being felt in the European Union. In fact,
• The mortality linked to antibiotic-resistant infections in Europe corresponds to approximately 33,000 deaths yearly;
• The economic burden of antimicrobial resistance in Europe has been estimated to be approximately € 1.5 billion per year.
Unfortunately, there is even more bad news: the high volume of antibiotics in food producing animals has contributed to the development of bacteria that can end up in the food chain and/or environment.
Numerous interventions to reduce the global burden of antibiotic resistance such as the promotion of educational programs and campaigns and of new, safer practices in personal and public hygiene, the development of rapid diagnostic tests, reducing/eliminating routine antibiotic use in livestock production, avoiding antibiotic use when unnecessary and improved antibiotic stewardship are critical measures that are recommended by international scientific public health bodies. In light of the fact that drug resistant pathogens are continuing to emerge, these efforts need to be intensified and reinforced by solid, innovative approaches. In the UK alone, for example, one third of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and two third of Escherichia coli and Neisseria gonorrhoea are resistant to antibiotics. In this worrisome scenario, vaccines can be seen as an important way to block the spread of antibiotic resistance by protecting individuals from being infected and from needing antibiotics and by eradicating specific pathogens from the population, leading to herd effects or indirect protection. In fact:
• Existing flu and pneumococcal vaccines are already contributing to herd immunity;
• Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, which protect against multiple types of pneumococcal bacteria, decrease the presence of the pneumococcal vaccine serotypes and reduce the genetic exchanges of resistance. After it was introduced in 2009, resistance to the main antibiotics (cephalosporins, macrolides, penicillins, tetracyclines) decreased by two thirds;
• New vaccines currently being developed will make it possible to reduce the use of antibiotics to treat Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Clostridium difficile, Escherichia coli and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
All of these considerations confirm the importance of including vaccination programs in national and international strategies to reduce antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals. During this online course leading scientists and researchers from several professional fields will give presentations on a variety of aspects regarding this topic.