Against the backdrop of World Antibiotic Resistance Awareness Week, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela on Tuesday travelled to Oman to participate in the third global ministerial conference aimed at tackling this growing problem.
According to the World Health Organisation, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to known medicines, making infections hard or impossible to treat, and in recent years there has been an alarming rise in hospital acquired infections of this kind.
Data on Cyprus from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows the country is one of the worst for antibiotic misuse, one of the key drivers of AMR, the Cyprus Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infections (Kekmil), said in a statement.
Kekmil went on to confirm that among EU countries Cyprus has one of the highest rates of infections due to AMR, despite the fact that a recent EU survey found the public in Cyprus more informed about the dangers of antibiotic overuse than many of their EU counterparts.
Despite antibiotics being one of the greatest achievements in the history of medicine and saving millions of lives, Kekmil said this achievement nowadays is endangered mainly due to “the reckless and irrational use” of them. This in turn leads to an increase in mortality, as well as illness severity and duration, thereby financially burdening health systems.
“Before the coronavirus pandemic, a lurking epidemic, silent but very aggressive, was underway […] the epidemic of resistant microbes, especially in hospitals,” it said.
Part of the solution is a race by scientists to discover and develop new drugs, as well as encourage more prudent use of the existing ones.
The ministry of health called AMR a key priority and noted that it is estimated that 33,000 patients die annually in the EU as a result of AMR infections. In the absence of effective measures, the ministry said, this number is expected to rise to over 10 million deaths per year by 2050, exceeding the number of deaths from cancer.