European Antibiotic Awareness Day: Why Not Go Global?

A conversation between Dr Angela Huttner* and Professor Herman Goossens**

*Infection Control Program and WHO Collaborating Center on Patient Safety, University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine, Geneva, Switzerland.
**Laboratory of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Antwerp, Belgium.

Prof. Herman Goossens is Chair of the European Antibiotic Awareness Day Technical Advisory Committee. 

Angela Huttner: There has been some discussion about why there is a “European Antibiotic Awareness Day” (EAAD) and not simply a Global Antibiotic Awareness Day. Those in favor of a “global” day have a good point. There is a lot of work being done the world over to counter the spread of resistance, and at the same time this resistance is everyone’s problem the world over. 

Herman Goossens: It might be helpful to explain a bit about the history of EAAD and how it all started. I discussed the idea of an antibiotic awareness day for the first time during a meeting in late 2006 with Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) at the time. Zsuzsanna liked the idea and gave it her full support. We discussed whether we should start at the European level or immediately expand its scope to the rest of the world. Zsuzsanna felt that we should start in the European Union, with the support of ECDC, and if successful, expand later to the rest of the world, with the support of World Health Organization (WHO). Needless to say that without her support back in 2006, the EAAD would never have reached its success of today.

AH: And yet today it remains European in name and fact.

HG: In February 2007, two months after my meeting with Zsuzsanna, our Minister of Social Affairs in Belgium, Rudy Demotte, traveled to the US to meet with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Levitt, and members of the Commission of Health, chaired by Ted Kennedy at that time. I had prepared a note for him to appeal for a “World Antibiotic Resistance Day” supported by ECDC and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It appears that, at that time, there was little stateside interest to join this European initiative. Since then, however, the situation has changed a lot. The US and other countries have joined and perhaps it is indeed time for a global initiative.

AH: So now we have the US CDC’s “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” and Australia’s “Antibiotic Awareness Week” in addition to EAAD. Similarly, there are active initiatives in Canada, Mexico and several other countries worldwide. These disparate movements seem to display all too clearly the recurring and problematic theme in the global spread of resistance: a great deal of effort is being made in many corners of the world, but coordinated action among all players is lacking.

HG: Of course it would make sense to merge all of these movements into one stronger one, especially since resistance is truly a global challenge. I fully support this idea. But the EAAD is very successful because of the enormous support and leadership of the ECDC. We would need similar leadership and support for a world event. The obvious partner would indeed be WHO, as suggested by Zsuzsanna back in 2006. I would hope that WHO could show comparable leadership—the kind required by such a huge public health crisis. If not, in my opinion, this initiative will fail. My conclusion is: a Global Antibiotic Awareness Day … or even Week -who knows?-… is a great idea, but it needs leadership, careful planning, coordination, and massive support to be successful.

Note: Today, November 18th is European Antibiotic Awareness DayThis special guest post came together quickly after a few emails and other e-discussions. Special thanks to Didier Pittet for making the connections and targeting this for posting on our blog.

For more information see:
1) The EAAD website

2) Special Commentary at the ARIC Journal: Antimicrobial resistance: a global view from the 2013 World Healthcare-Associated Infections Forum by Angela Huttner, Didier Pittet and co-authors

3) Special Editorial at ARIC: Controlling antimicrobial resistance: Interfering in the process of natural selection by Johan Mouton


  1. New recommendation for preventing over-prescription of antibacterials:

    Colin Purrington


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