Prof. Petra Gastmeier

Antimicrobial resistance-survey: Still huge knowledge gaps!

A recently presented survey (in the context of the project RAI/Rational use of antibiotics through information and communication) reveals, that people know few about antimicrobial resistance. „The results show that the topic has arrived in the population, but there are still huge knowledge gaps“, says Prof. Petra Gastmeier, director of the Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the Charité Berlin, which is project partner.

Mrs. Gastmeier, on the question who or what can be resistant to an antibiotic, 37 percent (of the 1.000 surveyed adults) answered with „viruses and bacteria“. And nearly 60 percent of the respondents believe that their behavior does not affect the development of resistance. What is the reason that people are so little informed?

The subject is complex and cannot be answered clearly. The development of resistance to antibiotics emerges from time to time in the public perception by media reports, usually in the context of „outbreaks“ in hospitals and the use of antibiotics in animal feed. The personal own influence on the development of resistance is rarely discussed in the public media. Personally relevant becomes the topic usually when the person itself is concerned. Then the doctor´s visit would be a way to inform people. Nationwide awareness campaigns such as the well-known AIDS campaigns (coverage, multi-modal, continuously over several years) did not exist in Germany until now, and RAI as a model project can´t be such a large initiative.

Now a project should be started, where it´s about educating the population. How the different groups can be reached? Should there be some educational work in schools?

In the first phase RAI examines the possible barriers but also the points of contact for target group information and so is following the „One Health“ concept. It covers not only prescribers of antibiotics (such as veterinarians, general and intensive care physicians and surgeons) but also non-prescribers such as farmers. The general population with very heterogeneous conditions will be specifically addressed. The development of the methods and tools is scheduled for October 2015.

Is there a similar survey or a comparable initiative also in other European countries, or is this a pioneer work?

Information campaigns on the use of antibiotics as well as surveys on the knowledge of the general population are carried out in some European countries. The findings and results of the campaigns in this countries can not be transferred one-to-one to Germany. Each country has its own communicative conditions. The unique of „RAI“ is, that diverse disciplines collaborate on this socially relevant topic of rational use of antibiotics. We are convinced that only the common approach can move such a relevant topic.