Treatment options for some of the most common foodborne infections are decreasing, as some types of bacteria continue to show resistance to antimicrobial drugs, warns the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). For example, multi-drug resistant isolates of Salmonella continue to be found across Europe, it says, and high resistance to the antimicrobial ciprofloxacin in Camplobacter isolates on both humans and animals has been reported in some member states.

Encouragingly, however, co-resistance to critically important antimicrobials for both bacteria remains low.

These are some of the findings of the latest EFSA European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) European Union Summary Report on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food, which analyses data from 2013.

Mike Catchpole chief scientist at ECDC, commented: “The high levels of resistance observed in Camylobacter isolates from both humans and broilers are of concern considering that a large proportion of human Camplyobacter infections come from handling, preparation and consumption of broiler meat. Such high resistance levels reduce the effective treatment options for severe human Campylobacter infections.”

Improved data comparison

For the first time, EFSA and ECDC have used similar criteria to interpret data.

“Findings in antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and foods are now more comparable. This is a step forward in the fight against antimicrobial resistance,” said Marta Hugas, acting head of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department.


Key study findings

Resistance in Salmonella to commonly used antimicrobials was frequently detected in humans and animals, particularly broilers and turkeys, and derived meat products. Multi-drug resistance was high – in humans 31.8 percent, in broilers 56.0 percent, in turkeys 73.0 percent and in fattening pigs 37.9 percent – and the continued spread of particularly multi-drug resistant clones reported in both human and animals isolates is of concern, the report’s authors say.

Resistance to commonly used antimicrobials in Campylobacter isolates was frequently detected in humans and animals, especially broilers, pigs and cattle. In food, resistance was detected in broiler meat. Resistance to ciprofloxacine, a critically important antimicrobial, was particularly high in humans, meaning that treatment options for serious infections with these zoonotic bacteria are reduced.

In Campylobacter jejuni, more than half of both human and broiler isolates, 54.6 percent and 54.5 percent, respectively, were resistant, alongside 35.8 percent in cattle. In C coli, two thirds of human and broiler isolates were resistant along with 31.1 percent of pig isolates.

Levels of co-resistance to critically important antimicrobials in Salmonella were low – in humans 0.2 percent, in broilers 0.3 percent, and in fattening pigs and turkeys there was none.

Levels of multi-drug resistance and co-resistance in Campylobacter isolates to critically important antimicrobials were generally reported at low-to-moderate levels in animals and at low levels in humans.