Ireland joins international initiative to tackle Antimicrobial Resistance

Mar 29th, 2017

On 28 March 2017, Ireland was accepted as a new member of the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR). It means that now 16 EU countries, and 23 countries worldwide, are involved in the international mission to fight Antimicrobial Resistance. Ireland will be represented in JPIAMR by the Health Research Board, the nation’s lead agency responsible for supporting and funding health research, information and evidence.

Since penicillin was discovered 90 years ago, bugs have developed resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics. The latest World Health Organisation report shows that there is an increasingly high level of antibiotic resistance in all regions of the world. This will severely affect people when antibiotics no longer work.

” Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a grave issue that must be tackled globally, and we are delighted to expand the group to include Ireland,” said Carlos Segovia, Chair of the JPIAMR Management Board. “The aim of this Joint Programme is to reduce AMR by supporting scientific activities at an international level to generate evidence-based solutions that provide policies for public health including veterinarian and agricultural levels. By working together, we hope to mobilise existing and new resources amongst JPIAMR members. The Joint Initiative approach allows us to coordinate, prioritise, and channel research activities to where the potential for benefit to everyone is the greatest”.

“Antibiotic resistance poses a public health threat on a global scale. It is a major societal challenge that a national research programme cannot tackle effectively alone,” said Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board (HRB), Dublin.” Ireland has some strong research experience in this area, but bacteria don’t exactly respect borders so it makes perfect sense for us joining forces with other countries to develop critical mass in this area and attract new researchers to the area.”

Ireland’s action on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Ireland has a good track record in addressing antimicrobial resistance with prevention and control of health care associated infections (HCAIs) and AMR being a significant long standing patient safety and public health priority for the Irish Department of Health.

A National Interdepartmental AMR Consultative Committee was set up in 2014 between the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The objective was to raise public and professional awareness of the threat of AMR to both public and animal health, addressing the repercussions for human health, agriculture, food industry and environment.

Another initiative which the Health Services Executive has established in Irish acute public hospitals is good systems for recording and benchmarking antimicrobial prescribing, and for recording and comparing antimicrobial resistance rates for serious infections with other European countries. Ireland also has an established national system for reporting on antibiotic consumption in the community.

Ireland has contributed to reporting to the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System since 1999 and through its membership of the World Health Organisation, is part of the international effort aimed at tackling the global public health treat of AMR.

Examples of Irish research in the area of AMR, funded by the Health Research Board (HRB)

  • Overprescribing
    Professor Andrew Murphy and his staff at National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) has found that almost half of the patients in General Practice were prescribed antibiotics for common ailments like coughs and colds – which were not necessary. This was driven by public insistence that they leave the doctor’s office with something, having paid for the appointment. The study showed there is a need for a change of attitude amongst doctors and patients to reduce overprescribing of antibiotics. To improve public understanding the team has developed an app game explaining which illnesses really require antibiotics.
  •  Clean medical devices
    Pioneering work from professor James O. Gara at NUI Galway, has led to a discovery about how bacteria cling to the surfaces of medical devices, providing potential to reduce infections from devices like catheters inserted into the body.


The Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance, JPIAMR, coordinates national funding and supports collaborative action for filling knowledge gaps on AMR.

By 2050, 10 million people each year are predicted to die as a result of drug resistant infections. Therefore, we must focus on reducing the incidence of bacterial infectious disease, ensuring rational use of the remaining antibiotics and reducing transmission of resistant bacteria. We must also undertake further research to better understand how resistance develops and spreads in the environment.

23 countries have joined forces to develop scientific proposals according to a common Strategic Research Agenda.

About the HRB:

The Health Research Board (HRB) is the lead agency in Ireland responsible for supporting and funding health research, information and evidence. The vision is Healthy people through excellent research and applied knowledge.