Netherlands has antibiotic resistance under control: PhD

Doctor with medicine
Doctor with medicine. (Photo: digicomphoto/DepositPhotos)

Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are a growing problem worldwide, but the Netherlands has this issue well under control, according to the PhD research of medical microbiologist Wouter Rottier from UMC Utrecht. If people in the Netherlands are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, the mortality rate is no higher than infections by bacteria that can still be treated by antibiotics, Rottier found, NOS reports.

The Netherlands, along with the Scandinavian countries, for years set an example for policy in the field of antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance. Dutch doctors prescribe relatively few antibiotics, and as a result the extent of antibiotic resistance is also relatively limited here. Dutch doctors also less often use so-called broad-spectrum antibiotics, that fight many pathogenic bacteria, instead using narrow-spectrum antibiotics which work very specifically against one particular category of pathogens. 

The forms of antibiotic resistance are also really different in the Netherlands than in other parts of the world, according to Rottier. "We still have good antibiotics for these forms. On top of that, the microbiological laboratories in the Netherlands provide a quick diagnosis and the people who are infected with resistant bacterium get the right antibiotics very quickly."

That doesn't happen in many other countries. "There are very different forms of antibiotic resistance for which good antibiotics are not always available. Countries with low and middle incomes, where antibiotic resistance is very common, also often do not have the diagnostic facilities. That is a completely different situation than ours."

The Netherlands has a very strict policy in place to prevent antibiotic resistance becoming a bigger problem in the country, by limiting the spread of such bacteria. Patients who come to Dutch hospitals are questioned prior to admission about possible visits to foreign healthcare institutions. Patients who visited a foreign healthcare institution will be isolated until it is certain that they are not infected with resistant bacteria or viruses. The same policy applies to pig and chicken farmers and their families. 

Only a small minority of the infections that occur in the Netherlands are caused by resistant bacteria, partly because the Dutch policy to keep the spread of such bacteria limited. Nevertheless, it is important to stay vigilant, according to Rottier. "Because the more serious forms of antibiotic resistance that now occur in other countries can also come to the Netherlands."

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