GIFTS-AMR presents a strategic research agenda for a new approach to antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics save thousands of lives worldwide every day. But antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is increasingly common, as antibiotics are used too often and unnecessarily. Despite efforts to reduce antibiotic use, annual global consumption is rising rapidly. Increasingly, this leaves doctors empty-handed in cases of serious, fatal infections. Especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), a disaster with millions of victims is looming in the coming years. Eventually, resistant bacteria will find their way to richer countries as well, so tackling AMR requires global cooperation. In the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, we reflect on this every year.

Treatment without antibiotics

The GIFTS-AMR project advocates an additional approach to AMR: the use of drugs from traditional, complementary and integrative care (TCIH) to treat acute, uncomplicated infectious diseases in humans and animals, and for prevention. The use of these medicines in uncomplicated infections reduces antibiotic use. Antibiotics then remain effective for those situations where they are indispensable. Much more is possible with TCIH approaches than is currently being done, but it requires more knowledge. GIFTS-AMR drew up a research agenda with an international JPIAMR grant, identifying the main priorities for international research.

Effective examples and education module

The agenda was presented at an online conference on 9 and 10 November 2023. The conference was organized by participants of the GIFTS-AMR project group like the Louis Bolk Institute, the University of Applied Sciences Leiden and IVAA (International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations). At the conference examples were presented of TCIH agents that have already been proven effective in the prevention and treatment of acute uncomplicated infections. These included agents for the treatment of respiratory infections in humans and animals, urinary tract infections (bladder infections) in humans and intestinal infections in animals. An education module was also presented, familiarising health professionals and researchers with the potential of TCIH treatments for infections.

International project group

GIFTS-AMR stands for Global Initiative for Traditional Solutions to Antimicrobial Resistance. It is a research project funded by the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR), an originally European collaboration that now involves 29 countries worldwide. The growing GIFTS-AMR project group brings together research institutes and individuals from diverse backgrounds: researchers in human and/or animal infectious diseases, researchers in traditional, complementary and integrative medicine, policy makers, healthcare professionals and veterinarians.

Plea for WHO working group

The agenda calls for cooperation with international organisations in addressing the global AMR problem. Among other things, it would be great progress if the World Health Organisation (WHO) establishes a working group providing good scientific information on the use of traditional, complementary and integrative treatments for prevention and treatment of infections. This could be of great value precisely in the low and middle income countries (LCIMs) where AMR is such a big problem. But also in the Western world, to ensure that antibiotics can continue to be used, when they are really needed.

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