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Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK


Health

EU calls for action over antibiotics

Europe needs to take action to avert the superbug threat, says report

A European Union body has called for firm action by governments to counter the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

The Economic and Social Committee (Ecosoc) is calling for a centralised system which can monitor the way antibiotics are used in medical and veterinary practice in the EU.

It could also trace any signs of resistance to illnesses.

In its report, "Resistance to antibiotics: a public health threat", Ecosoc says it wants EU governments to issue guidelines on how to limit the spread of drug-resistant illnesses, such as the superbug MRSA which is common in many hospitals in the UK.

Research

Ecosoc's report also calls for more research into antibiotic resistance and a ban on over-the-counter sales of antibiotics.

The British Government published guidelines on antibiotic use last week amid fears over the rise of superbugs.

The drugs are not sold over the counter in the UK.

Concerns have also been expressed over genetically modified food and the routine use of antibiotics on animals bred for food.

Environmentalists said they fear GM food, which involves genes from one plant being transplanted into another, could lead to the rise of new strains of disease which might be resistant to antibiotic treatment.

A recent report by IMS Health said it would be difficult to coordinate European policy on antibiotics as EU countries had very different patterns of use of the drugs.

It also stated that health officials in Britain were probably more aware of the potential dangers of overuse than other EU governments.



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