Scientists at two European Union agencies have combined their expertise to analyse Member State data and compile the first joint EU report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria affecting humans, animals and food.
Compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the report indicates that resistance to antimicrobials was observed in zoonotic bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, which may cause infectious diseases transmissible between animals and humans and which can be found in foods.
The report also presents antimicrobial resistance data for non-disease causing bacteria such as indicator E. coli and Enterococci, which usually do not cause disease in humans.
The report makes an important contribution to current work being carried out at European level and the findings will be considered by the European Commission as it develops its forthcoming proposals for action to fight antimicrobial resistance.
The report, based on 2009 data, shows that a high proportion of Campylobacter in humans is resistant to a critically important antibiotic for the treatment of human diseases: ciprofloxacin, which belongs to the fluoroquinolones group.
In animals, a high or moderate proportion of Salmonella (in chickens), Campylobacter and non-disease-causing E. coli was also found to be resistant to this antibiotic.
Key findings in humans
Campylobacter: In humans, high levels of resistance were recorded for the antimicrobial ciprofloxacin (47%) as well as for resistance to ampicillin (43%) and nalidixic acid (40%). Resistance to another important antimicrobial – erythromycin - was low (3.1%).
Salmonella: The report shows that resistance to common antimicrobials like ampicillin, tetracycline and sulphonamide was moderate, with around 20% of the tested bacteria considered resistant.
Resistance to clinically important antimicrobials - third-generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones - was below 10%.
E. coli: The report did not include data on resistance to antimicrobials in E. coli in humans.
Key findings in animals
In animals, Campylobacter also showed high levels of resistance to ciprofloxacin. This was in particular the case for chickens (46% in Campylobacter jejuni and 78% in the Campylobacter coli) and also pigs (50% in Campylobacter coli).
Salmonella: In animals, high levels of resistance were recorded for ampicillin, tetracycline and sulphonamide in pigs and pig meat (47-60%), cattle (37-40%) and chicken meat (27-33%).
A moderate level of resistance to ciprofloxacin was recorded in chickens and chicken meat (around 20%).
Non-disease causing E. coli showed high levels of resistance to tetracycline, ampicillin and sulphonamide in pigs and chicken; and E. coli was found to be resistant to ciprofloxacin in chicken (47%) and also in pigs (12%). The occurrence of third-generation cephalosporin resistance was still low.
For more information read European Union summary report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from animals and food in the European Union in 2009