AMR pandemic: rising to the challenge with medical technologies

  • 4 minutes
  • Posted on 13.06.2023

AMR pandemic: rising to the challenge with medical technologies

Miriam D’Ambrosio

Senior Manager Communications, MedTech Europe

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is now on the political agenda like never before. The WHO has called AMR a ‘silent pandemic’. The issue has been discussed by the G7 and it is among the priorities highlighted in the mission letter sent by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the Commissioner responsible for health, Stella Kyriakides.

This is welcome ‒ but there is a problem. The conversation is often too narrowly focused on developing new antibiotics. While that is an important element of a holistic response to this crisis, we need to think bigger and broader. In particular, we need to see much greater emphasis on prevention.

Preventing, directing and monitoring

Prevention and management of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) contribute to the control of bacterial resistance by limiting the transmission of multidrug resistant organisms, and consequently lowering the need for antibiotic therapy ‒ offering less opportunity for bacteria to become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.

Medical technologies play a vital role: antibacterial sutures and implants, coated endoscopes and patient warming devices all contribute to a healthcare-wide prevention effort. Many of these tools are cost saving for healthcare systems.

For those who require in-hospital care, including surgery, the medical technology sector has been at the forefront of working with surgeons to develop and implement digital surgical checklists. Checklists and cognitive tools prevent infections and enhance patient safety.

Diagnostic tests are key to reducing the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. For example, the early and appropriate use of tests to differentiate between bacterial and viral infections. As antibiotics do not work on viruses, diagnostic information provides healthcare professionals with the information they need to make sound prescribing decisions.

Knowing which kind of bacteria is causing a patient’s illness, as well as to which antibiotic it is susceptible, allows the right treatment to be chosen. This improves patients’ outcomes while saving time and resources that might otherwise be wasted.

In parallel, diagnostics also support screening for pathogens at hospital admission, as well as monitoring hospital wards and patients, detecting outbreaks and informing their resolution.

Diagnostic technologies assist in the surveillance of AMR patterns, providing valuable data to inform antimicrobial policy. Innovative tools are also used to monitor the compliance of patients with treatment, while smart systems are already used in some hospitals to detect contact with infected individuals. This aids hospitals in isolating or separating those who are infected from those who are not.

Similarly, in the community, fast and accurate testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can contain outbreaks by informing behaviour change among infected individuals.

Future priorities 

Many of today’s tools can help to prevent tomorrow’s infections. We see opportunities for EU institutions and Member States to further step up their efforts.

Stronger action to raise awareness of AMR and implementation of national action plans are essential. The ECDC should be tasked with developing evidence-based guidance and behavioural tools on infection prevention and control to be applied in hospitals across Europe.

Member States should enhance the behavioural change of healthcare professionals by expanding antibiotic stewardship and infection control programmes in healthcare facilities, supported by electronic surveillance systems. Greater transparency on infection rates can also help to drive continuous improvement.

As the medical and economic value of innovative technologies that prevent and control AMR and HAIs must be understood more clearly, the European Commission and EU Member States should support the development of new funding, studies and business models favouring the adoption of such tools.

Let’s not underestimate the scale of the task ahead. However, with our collective effort and by using available technologies, we can rise to the challenge of the AMR pandemic together.

The future of healthcare depends on our success. Failure is not an option.

To find out more about how the medical technology sector is working to tackle AMR and HAI, please contact MedTech Europe.

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