Human health threatened by antimicrobial resistance

A new study has shown that bacteria in humans, food, and animals continue to show resistance to the most common antimicrobials. 

The news was reported in a review on the latest resistance in zoonotic bacteria, with research from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in a report that covered the whole of Europe.

Research has highlighted that antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to human and animal health, which has been identified by the European Commission (EC) as a major priority in its political agenda on food safety.

“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.

“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.

According to the report, different areas of Europe display differing levels of resistance, with the highest levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) 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 Marta Hugas, EFSA’s head of biological hazards and contaminants unit.

Campylobacter-caused illness was found to be the most commonly reported foodborne disease within the EU.

Resistance to widely used antimicrobials, such as ciprofloxacin, were 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.

Second to campylobacter, sickness caused by salmonella was the most prominent foodborne disease in the continent.

Multi-drug resistance, at 26%, was found to be high in bacteria in humans, while it was especially high in broiler and turkey meat, at 24.8% and 30.5% respectively.

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