Antimicrobial resistance is a growing global problem. Judicious use of anthroposophic medical approaches can help address it
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the ability of microorganisms to withstand treatments designed to work against them – is a growing global problem. Previously effective antibiotics, antivirals and other medicines are being rendered ineffective, exposing patients to worsening infections and dwindling options to address them. Infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria are predicted to be a leading cause of death by 2050, unless the global health community takes serious steps to curtail current trends. The World Health Organization has called AMR “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development”, which needs to be addressed in a multi-sectoral One Health Approach.
To effectively tackle AMR, comprehensive global, regional, and national approaches should reduce the need for and the consumption of antibiotics, while seeking non-antibiotic prevention and treatment methods. While prevention and control strategies, including vaccines, better diagnostics, and surveillance of the development of new antibiotics, are important, research and implementation of integrative and anthroposophic non-antibiotic treatments are also needed and should be explored as one of the tools to address AMR.
IVAA’s Position on Antimicrobial Resistance
The IVAA recognises the critical role that anthroposophic and integrative medicine can play in reducing the threat of AMR. We therefore call on policy makers to:
- Include anthroposophic medicine and other integrative approaches as promising options in national, European and international policies to prevent AMR and reduce antibiotic use;
- Prioritize the processes of health promotion and patient resilience as strategies of prevention in national public health strategies and in National Action Plans (NAPs) on AMR;
- Include evidence-based preventive and therapeutic Integrative Medicine approaches in public education on reducing antibiotic use Support and prioritize the evaluation and research on Anthroposophic and Integrative Medicine approaches on AMR in academic and research institutions. Outcomes should be shared with healthcare professionals, policy makers, stakeholders, and public through appropriate monitoring and reporting tools;
- Foster a One Health approach to health and the collaboration between human, animal, and plant sectors on regional, national, and international level to effectively prevent AMR in an environmentally sustainable way.
How anthroposophic medicine can help address AMR
Anthroposophic medical approaches help prevent infections, and reduce the use of antimicrobials when diseases strike
- Health promotion and disease prevention: The anthroposophic approach to health focuses on keeping patients healthy and resilient to infectious diseases e.g. by addressing factors in an individual’s lifestyle, background, or community that are risk factors for illness. Healthier lifestyles contribute to preventing common types of infectious diseases that cause patients to seek antibiotics, such as acute otitis media (AOM), Anthroposophic care measures, such as avoiding fever suppression, can also lead to lower infection rates.
- Non-antibiotic medical treatments: Studies show that the anthroposophic approach involves lower prescription rates of antibiotics even when patients do become infected, e.g. with respiratory, urinary, and skin infections. For example, in a retrospective study on the use of antibiotics in children hospitalised with pneumonia (lung infection) in the Filderklinik, a hospital in Germany that integrates conventional with Anthroposophic Medicine, only 32% of children required antibiotics, This is much lower than rates reported in the scientific literature, 88–98 %, while safety and outcomes were excellent in the study. A study in BMJ Open showed that general practitioners trained in integrative medicine have significantly less antibiotic prescription rates than general practitioners without such training.
- Anthroposophic Medicinal Products (AMPs): Safe and effective anthroposophic medicinal products combined with non-antibiotic prevention and treatment strategies can best reduce the need for antimicrobials in case of simple infections, although further evaluations are needed to determine their efficacy.
Anthroposophic approaches to food and lifestyle address AMR in a One Health perspective
The use of medically important antimicrobials in animal agriculture is a common practice that has led to the spread of multi-resistant bacteria in animals which are then passed on to humans and into the environment. The World Health Organization, which has issued guidelines on addressing this problem, recommends the overall reduction of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and a complete halt to the use antimicrobials to encourage growth or as a preventative measure for diseases that have not been diagnosed. The guidelines highlight the need for a multi-sectoral “One-Health” approach to AMR, which recognises the impact of different sectors (including food production and veterinary care) the spread of resistant bacteria.
Biodynamic farming, the anthroposophic approach to agriculture, lowers the over-and misuse of antimicrobials in animal farming practices by encouraging enhanced animal welfare standards, hygiene conditions and biosecurity, in a health-oriented management to livestock. A European Parliament study, for example, indicate a substantially lower use of antibiotics in organic farming. A comprehensive review in 2017 found that organic approaches to agriculture have overall benefits for human health, including potentially reducing allergies, improving nutrition, and most importantly reducing use of antimicrobials. Biodynamic farming is one way to meet the WHO’s guidelines on antimicrobial use reduction, and may have the additional benefit of improving overall health.
Further Reading on Anthroposophic Medicine and AMR
- IVAA Position Paper on AMR [pdf]
- Antibiotic resistance, integrative approach in anthroposophic medicine and anthroposophic hospitals, a presentation by IVAA Board President Thomas Breitkreuz [pdf]
- The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Reducing the Problem of Antimicrobial Resistance [pdf], a joint IVAA and EuroCAM paper published in 2015
- Goetheanum Medical Section page on antimicrobial resistance
- World Health Organization’s page on antimicrobial resistance
- Baars, E. W., Belt-Van Zoen, E., Willcox, M., Huber, R., Hu, X. Y., & van der Werf, E. T. (2020). CAM treatments for cough and sore throat as part of an uncomplicated acute respiratory tract infection: a systematic review of prescription rates and a survey among European integrative medical practitioners. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 39(April), 101194: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2020.101194
- Esther T van der Werf et al., Do NHS GP surgeries employing GPs additionally trained in integrative or complementary medicine have lower antibiotic prescribing rates? Retrospective cross-sectional analysis of national primary care prescribing data in England, BMJ Open, 2018.
- Esther T. Kok et al., Resistance to Antibiotics and Antifungal Medicinal Products: Can Complementary and Alternative Medicine Help Solve the Problem in Common Infection Diseases? The Introduction of a Dutch Research Consortium, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2015.
- Hamre HJ et al., Anthroposophic vs. conventional therapy of acute respiratory and ear infections: a prospective outcomes study, Wien Klin Wochenschr, 2005.
- Martin, D., Wachtmeister, J., Ludwigs, K., & Jenetzky, E. (2020). The FeverApp registry – Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) of fever management in families regarding conformity to up-to-date recommendations. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 20(1), 1–8: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-020-01269-w
- Vagedes, J., Martin, D., Müller, V., Helmert, E., Huber, B. M., Andrasik, F., & von Schoen-Angerer, T. (2020). Restrictive antibiotic use in children hospitalized for pneumonia: A retrospective inpatient study. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 34, 101068: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2020.101068