EFSA reports antimicrobial resistance in Campylobacter still high in poultry, turkeys, pigs and calves
07 Mar 2023 --- The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports sustained high levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Campylobacter bacteria. According to the report, “Campylobacteriosis was the most reported zoonosis in the EU in 2021 and the most frequently reported cause of foodborne illness.”
“Campylobacter bacteria from humans and food-producing animals (poultry, fattening turkeys, fattening pigs and calves) continue to show very high resistance to ciprofloxacin, a commonly used antimicrobial in humans,” states the report.
“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face worldwide, affecting humans, animals, and the environment. Working together remains key to tackling this complex problem,” say ECDC and EFSA chief scientists Mike Catchpole and Carlos Das Neves in a joint statement.
Hope for AMR levels
However, the report also notes positive trends within AMR levels. Certain key strains show diminished resistance levels and find that “An increasing proportion of bacteria from food-producing animals was susceptible to all tested antimicrobials.”
“Simultaneous resistance to critically important antimicrobials for humans was generally detected at low levels, except for some Salmonella types and Campylobacter coli in several countries,” says the report.
Notably, the report observed a drop in salmonella’s resistance to ampicillin and tetracycline in humans from 2013 to 2021. Similar reductions in resistance have been observed across animals.
“This drop in resistance was particularly evident in S. Typhimurium, a type of Salmonella commonly associated with pigs and calves, which is often multidrug-resistant,” says the report.
“Data also shows decreasing trends in resistance of Campylobacter jejuni to erythromycin in humans and broilers.”
To create the report, the EFSA collected and analyzed data from food-producing animals and food, while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) analyzed similar data from humans for both to provide a broad overview of AMR trends within Europe.
The report generally assesses that while individual variations across the EU were found, “key outcome indicators” show that significant progress has been made in reducing AMR in food-producing animals in several member states.
One final note of the report flagged that resistance of E. coli to carbapenem (a broad spectrum antibiotic) remains “rare” in food-producing animals and humans.
However, since carbapenems are a class of last-resort antimicrobials, EFSA stresses that any findings showing resistance to these in zoonotic bacteria are a “concern,” and “resistance to carbapenem needs to be kept monitored and investigated.”
The report concludes with several critical implications and recommendations from the EFSA, mainly calling for “Caution in the use of antimicrobials in all sectors, including agriculture.”
It also notes that differences in the occurrence of AMR in MSs can relate to historical or current patterns of antimicrobial use.
However, it is outlined that these may also highlight differences in husbandry and other practices or strategies that may assist in the prevention of AMR.
EFSA informing legislative change
In similar news, the EFSA recently published urgent recommendations to improve the welfare of farmed broiler chickens and laying hens.
The assessments call for widespread improvements for farmed chickens, notably discontinuing cage use and mutilation while providing improved environments.
The assessments, requested by the European Commission (EC), will provide scientific support to the ongoing revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation. A new legislative proposal by the Commission is expected in the second half of the year.
By James Davies
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