Time to act on antibiotic resistance

07 July 2017

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Last week, Dr Hannah Maslen – James Martin Research Fellow and Programme Manager on the Oxford Martin Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease – gave a Keynote address at a European Parliament conference on the threat of antibiotic resistance.

This conference, 'Scientific, Human Health, Husbandry, and Socio-Economic Aspects of Antibacterial Resistance: Time to Act', coincided with the European Commission’s adoption of a new Action Plan to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – a growing threat that is responsible for 25,000 deaths and a loss of €1.5 billion in the EU every year.

The conference, chaired by members of the European Parliament, brought together policymakers, scientists, and industry stakeholders to discuss the urgent public health risk that AMR presents, and to recommend potential regulatory responses. The conference focused particularly on the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in farming practices, particularly animal husbandry.

Dr Maslen’s talk examined how the interests of various stakeholders, farmers, and all those put at risk by AMR would be affected by regulating or not regulating, and what weight should be accorded to the interests of these various parties. She acknowledged the existing incentive structure motivating the use of antibiotics in farming, and commented on how different regulatory approaches could change this.

One possibility discussed was taxing and labelling meat produced using antibiotics - the subject of a recent research paper from the Oxford Martin Programme on Collective Responsibility for Infectious Disease. Dr Maslen argued that the responsibility to act in response to AMR rests initially and predominantly with governments, and that there was a moral obligation for governments to fulfil this responsibility.