Fight against antibiotic resistance

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to more and more antibiotics. The Netherlands and China are exchanging knowledge about how to prevent resistance, for example in two meetings which took place in Peking and Shanghai last September.

For a long time China was lagging behind as regards preventing antibiotic resistance. It is a country in which antibiotics are used often and frequently, in the medical and farming industry. Major pharmaceutical companies are also guilty of dumping large quantities of antibiotics as waste into surface water.

Researchers in China recently discovered a bacteria which is resistant to all antibiotics, including even the 'kill or cure remedy' Colistin which is often used as a last resort. This bacteria can be transferred from pigs to people and has now been identified in other countries as well, including the Netherlands.


After years of increasing cooperation in this field, China is now also changing its approach. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has helped the Chinese to set up a monitoring system for antibiotic resistance. The focus of the conferences in Peking and Shanghai is on the smart use of the collected data and on devising an actual approach to antibiotic resistance. The participants in the conferences included a delegation from RIVM's National Centre for Infectious Disease Control [Centrum voor Infectieziektenbestrijding].

All antibiotics originate in nature. They are produced there by bacteria and moulds that use them to fight each other. In January 2015 scientists published an exciting discovery in Nature: the discovery of a new type of antibiotic, produced by bacteria living in mud. The substance, teixobactin, has been used successfully to fight tuberculosis in mice. Research is ongoing to discover whether the new medicines also work in humans. Teixobactin is certainly not the first (possible) medicine that nature has given us. Its discovery shows how important biodiversity is, including biodiversity in the soil.