Campaign to #SafeguardColistin for human use in Europe

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On 15 February 2022, HCWH Europe shared the letter signed by 150 health professionals and 18 supporting health professionals and animal welfare groups calling for colistin to be reserved for human medicine only, effectively banning its use in EU food production and imports.

This petition is now closed. 

The new EU Veterinary Medical Products Regulation will enter into force in January 2022, introducing new rules on veterinary medicinal products to better tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). As part of this regulation, the European Commission will develop a list of antimicrobials to be banned in food production. This ban will also apply to imported food, establishing an important international standard. 

It is crucial that colistin is on this list in order to safeguard this vital medicine in the fight against AMR. 

Join other European healthcare professionals to stop the spread of AMR and sign this petition calling on the European Commission to ban colistin in EU food production and meat imports.

Your signature and the text below will be shared with the European Commission before the final list of antimicrobials reserved for human health is published (expected late 2021).

In its One Health Action Plan Against AMR, the European Commission committed to reducing the emergence and spread of AMR and to increasing the development and availability of new effective antimicrobials. 

Considering that the main cause of AMR is antimicrobial use, a reduction in the unnecessary use of antimicrobials will be crucial to achieving this objective. This includes antimicrobials used in food-producing animals.

In Europe, 6,431 tonnes of antimicrobials were used in food production in 2018 alone. 14% of those medicines were antimicrobials identified as ‘highest priority critically important’ by the WHO - i.e. last-resort antimicrobials that are vital for human health. When last-resort antibiotics are no longer effective, some infections may be impossible to treat. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics in farming is associated with a growing number of resistant bacteria that can spread to humans through direct contact with animals on farms, the processing, transport, or handling of food animals and food, and through the environment.

Colistin is one of the last-resort antimicrobials used in farming. Whilst its use in human health was originally very restricted due to its toxicity, colistin is now widely used as a last-resort antibiotic to treat infections caused by gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to carbapenems. It is notably used to treat pulmonary bacterial infections in cystic fibrosis patients

Despite its importance for human health, colistin is still used in veterinary medicine across Europe. In 2018 colistin accounted for 3.3% of the total sales of antimicrobials for food-producing animals in Europe.

Colistin is used especially in pigs, which are commonly weaned early from their mothers for increased profitability. This can lead piglets to develop neonatal diarrhea, which is often treated with antibiotics. Alternative prevention and treatment measures, such as later weaning, would reduce the need for antimicrobials

Colistin-resistant bacteria are spreading around the world. In the EU, the situation is especially worrying in southern countries, where increasing carbapenem resistance has led doctors to start using colistin more frequently to treat bacteria resistant to these antibiotic agents. In one Greek hospital, colistin resistance rates rose from 0% in 2007 to 8.1% in 2008 and to 24.3% in 2009. Similarly, in Italy, there has been a rise in colistin resistance in K. Pneumoniae bacteria, from 1-2% in 2006 to 33% in 2009.

In light of the crucial importance of colistin, we call on the European Commission to include colistin in the list of antimicrobials reserved for human health. We must  #SafeguardColistin and make sure that this critically important antimicrobial is not used to sustain poor husbandry practices.