Antimicrobial resistance fear grows

By Aaron McDonald

- Last updated on GMT

Tackling the so-called antibiotics apocalypse requires a global solution
Tackling the so-called antibiotics apocalypse requires a global solution

Related tags Antimicrobial resistance European commission European union Beef Lamb Livestock Pork

Research has found that bacteria in humans, food and animals continue to show resistance to the most widely used antimicrobials, leading to concerns in the European food industry. 

Scientists have warned that resistance to ciprofloxacin – an antimicrobial that is critically important for treatment of human infections – is very high in campylobacter. Meanwhile, multidrug-resistant salmonella bacteria continue to spread across the continent.

The findings come from the latest European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report that covers the whole of Europe. The research highlighted that antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to human and animal health. The risk was identified as a major priority in the European Commission’s (EC) political agenda on food safety.

Industry needs 'global solution' 

Every year in the EU, infections caused by antimicrobial resistance lead to about 25,000 deaths, but the threat is not confined to Europe,​” warned Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU commissioner for health and food safety. “This is a global problem that requires a global solution.

The EU has long been at the forefront in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and is a leader in the field. Our agencies, EFSA and ECDC, by combining their expertise in human and animal health, are putting together many of the pieces in the complex puzzle and providing policy makers the world over with valuable scientific advice.​”

Evidence of resistance to the antimicrobial colistin in salmonella and E coli in EU poultry was also discovered in the report.

Extremely high 

This is worrying because it means that this last-resort drug may soon no longer be effective for treating severe human infections,​” commented Mike Catchpole, chief scientist for ECDC.

It was observed within the report that different regions of Europe have differing resistance levels. The highest levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are found in eastern and southern Europe. “In northern Europe, there is lower resistance in bacteria from poultry, particularly in countries with low use of antimicrobials in animals,​” explained EFSA’s head of biological hazards and contaminants unit Marta Hugas.

Campylobacteriosis, the disease caused by campylobacter, is the most commonly reported food-borne disease within the EU.

Salmonella the most prominent 

Resistance to widely used antimicrobials, such as ciprofloxacin, was commonly detected in bacteria from humans and poultry. High to extremely high resistance to ciprofloxacin was observed in broilers (69.8%), as well as in bacteria from humans (60.2%). High to extremely high resistance to nalidixic acid and to tetracyclines was reported in broilers.

After sickness caused by campylobacter, salmonellosis, which is derived from salmonella, is the most prominent food-borne disease.

Resistance to widely used antimicrobials was commonly detected in salmonella from humans and poultry.

At over a quarter (26%), multi-drug resistance was high in bacteria in humans. It was especially high in broiler and turkey meat, at 24.8% and 30.5% respectively.

Meanwhile, some types of salmonella bacteria, particularly salmonella Kentucky and salmonella Infantis are especially of concern. This is down to high levels of resistance to ciprofloxacin and high multi-drug resistance.

Furthermore, extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) was observed at low levels in salmonella from poultry. Despite this, a clone of multi-drug-resistant and ESBL-producing salmonella Infantis was reported in both humans and poultry alike.

Meanwhile in the UK, research from the British Poultry Council shows a 28% drop in overall usage of antibiotics compared to 2014, according to our sister site MTJ​.

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