A national, interdepartmental antimicrobial resistance (AMR) consultative committee is to be set up to tackle, what is described as the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Ireland has a relatively high rate of antimicrobial resistance in human health compared to most European countries and antibiotics are used more frequently than the European average, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, and the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, jointly announced that dealing with the problem of antibiotic resistance requires a coordinated approach.

“It is important that there is communication and cooperation across the Health and Agriculture Departments in relation to this issue. Antibiotics are a hugely valuable resource to protect both human and animal health and our best chance at protecting them is by working together today to ensure that we have effective antibiotics tomorrow,” Simon Coveney said.

Minister Varadkar also welcomed the establishment of the Committee saying the rise in antimicrobial resistance represents a significant challenge for all of us. “The health service has already made considerable progress in tackling MRSA and C.diff but we have a long way to go. This new forum will help us to share vital information and to work even more closely in the future.”

The setting up of this Committee coincides with European Antibiotic Awareness Day 2014 being marked this week, aimed at increasing public awareness of need for the prudent use of antibiotics in the treatment of human and animal diseases.

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer welcomed the establishment of the Committee which, they said, is an important step in developing a unified approach to antimicrobial resistance which spans people, animals and the wider environment under the Healthy Ireland framework.

Antimicrobial resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics and by poor infection control. Existing antibiotics are becoming less effective, fewer and fewer new antibiotics are being developed, and new multi-resistant bacteria are emerging in both human and veterinary medicine.