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AMR report highlights need for action - RUMA

24th Feb 2017 / By Alistair Driver

A new report showing bacteria found in humans, animals and food continues to show resistance to widely used antimicrobials across the EU highlights the need for action, according to RUMA. 

The report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showed:

  • Generally high multi-drug resistance in Salmonella across the EU, although resistance to critically important antimicrobials remains low
  • Very low levels of resistance to carbapenem antibiotics, usually the last remaining treatment option for patients infected with multidrug resistant bacteria, observed for the first time in E. coli found in pigs and pigmeat
  • Resistance to colistin at very low levels in Salmonella and E. coli in pigs and cattle
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli has been detected in beef, pork, pigs and calves. Bacteria that produce ESBL enzymes show multi-drug resistance to β-lactam antibiotics, which include penicillin derivatives and cephalosporins
  • More than 10% of the tested Campylobacter coli bacteria in humans showed resistance to two critically important antimicrobials (fluoroquinolones and macrolides), which are used to treat severe cases of Campylobacter infections in humans
  • Generally lower levels of resistance found in the UK than many parts of Europe

Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is an alarming threat putting human and animal health in danger.

"We have put substantial efforts to stop its rise, but this is not enough. We must be quicker, stronger and act on several fronts. This is why the Commission will launch a new Action Plan this summer that will give a new framework for future coordinated actions to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance.”

Concerted action

JFGRUMA secretary general, John FitzGerald, said: “This shows that the work being done to reduce, refine and replace antibiotic use is a priority, and very necessary across both human and veterinary medicine,” he said.

“We hope that the generally lower levels of resistance found in the UK reflect, in part, the responsible use guidelines for farm animals we have had in place through RUMA for the past 20 years. Despite this, the need for further concerted action is clear.”

However, he highlighted that while cutting back on antibiotic use should reduce the risk of resistance occurring, there was not always a direct relationship.

“This report found very low levels of resistance to carbapenems in pigs and pig meat, yet carbapenems are neither authorised nor used in food-producing animals. But this doesn’t mean we should lose focus on reductions,” he stressed.

For example, very low levels of bacterial resistance (in 0.6% of isolates tested from fattening pigs) were reported for colistin, a drug of last resort, in the UK.

While 2015 UK sales of colistin for food-producing animals were around a tenth of the EU recommended maximum, it is hoped that voluntary restrictions imposed by many sectors at the end of 2015 after resistance to colistin was found in China will have resulted in further reductions for 2016.

He added: “RUMA and the UK livestock industry are in complete agreement with the report authors, that prudent use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine is extremely important in addressing the challenge posed by antimicrobial resistance. We all have a responsibility to ensure that antibiotics keep workin."

Antibiotic stewardship

The NPA is leading the drive towards reducing and refining antibiotic usage in the pig sector. It is encouraging producers to take a holistic approach through its Antibiotic Stewardship Programme, including recording usage on eMB-Pigs and maintaining high biosecurity standards. 

The UK sales data used in the EFSA report were published in November 2016 and confirmed a 10% reduction in UK farm animal use overall in 2015, including a 24% reduction in pig-only products and 10% reduction in sales of products licensed for pig and poultry use.

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