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"Research is key in the work against antibiotic resistance"

To safeguard the world’s supply of effective medicines, we need large resources for research and innovation, broad-based global collaboration and clear leadership. Sweden plays a leading role in the international efforts against antibiotic resistance, and the Swedish Research Council’s mandate in this field is extensive.

Photo of anyibiotics.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week runs from 18 to 24 November. This is a WHO initiative, aimed at disseminating knowledge about antibiotic resistance and increasing awareness of the importance of only using antibiotics when they are needed. The efforts to stop antibiotic resistance and find new medicines continues all year round, however.

Today, we use antibiotics to treat infections, and they are also an important part of medical procedures, such as operations and cancer treatments. The effects of antibiotics have long been taken for granted, but along with the extensive use of these medicines, more and more bacteria are developing resistance against antibiotics. According to a report from 2019 by the UN’s Inter-Agency Coordination Group (IACG), at least 700 000 persons die each year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and this figure is increasing year by year.

More knowledge about antibiotic resistance is needed

Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global challenges today, and the consequences for humans and animals are enormous.

Together, the world must reduce its use of antibiotics and develop new medicines to replace those that no longer work. But this not enough: We also need to know more about how bacteria develop resistance, and how resistance spreads. At the same time, we need to find better ways of preventing infection and, not least, reduce the emission of antibiotics in the environment. The work covers areas as disparate as waste water management, animal husbandry, food production, preventive healthcare for both humans and animals, and many others.

In these areas, there are also great expectations on research and innovation to find solutions and methods that reduce antibiotic resistance around the world. To address all these challenges, we need both new political initiatives and broad-based collaboration.

The Swedish Research Council is driving forward the work against antibiotic resistance, both nationally and internationally

The Swedish Research Council has a national research programme in antibiotic resistance, and also hosts the secretariat for the global research collaboration JPIAMR (Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance). Through the national programme, Sweden is investing 100 million SEK per year, for the purpose of creating long-term, coordinated collaboration between national actors and countries on research into antibiotic resistance. The programme funds research environments, graduate schools, research infrastructure, research projects and grants to junior researchers, and also supports science communication and the utilisation of research results. Six key priority topics have been identified:

  • Identifying knowledge gaps and prioritising research needs
  • Initiating and funding research
  • Promoting international coordination and international research collaboration
  • Promoting access to and utilisation of research data, competence, education and infrastructure
  • Disseminating, establishing and increasing the impact of research results
  • Promoting networks and knowledge exchange between researchers and society

The JPIAMR organisation today has 28 member countries, and Sweden plays a leading role in the collaboration. Within JPIAMR, the member countries’ funding of research in the area is coordinated: To date, more than 100 million EUR have been invested in research into new antibiotics, better diagnostics and preventive measures, and also control of the spread of infection.

A joint feature of both the national research programme into antibiotic resistance and JPIAMR is the broad perspective, where research funding is one of several parts. International coordination and research collaboration, identifying knowledge gaps, increasing access to and use of research data, competence and infrastructure, and also disseminating knowledge and research results are central factors. A long-term approach is also crucial: The national research programme runs for ten years, and the JPIAMR collaboration is now supporting preparations for an upcoming European Commission partnership, the ‘One Health AMR Partnership’. This partnership will support international collaboration in research and innovation to prevent and reduce antibiotic resistance, and also develop and maintain effective therapies for humans and animals.

Sweden should mobilise resources for research – with the goal of safeguarding human health

Sweden is therefore an important actor when it comes to research into antibiotic resistance, and has both the preconditions and the capacity to find methods and medicines that prevent resistant bacteria from risking our health in our everyday lives. But resistant bacteria do not recognise national borders, and therefore we need broad-based collaboration between countries and researchers. More funding for research is crucial, but, simultaneously, innovation and increased focus on communication and knowledge exchange also make an important difference. With greater financial resources for research into antibiotic resistance, clear leadership and strengthened innovation, Sweden can contribute to achieving the goal of safeguarding the health of everyone, through continued access to effective medicines for treating infections.

Madeleine Durbeej-Hjalt, Secretary General, Scientific Council for Medicine and Health at the Swedish Research Council

Photo of  Madeleine Durbeej-Hjalt.

Podcast on antibiotic resistance

Listen to the Swedish Research Council's podcast with guest Jan-Ingvar Jönsson, chairman of JPIAMR. The conversation is led by Anders Bjers.

Listen directly via the player below (in Swedish).

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