Antimicrobial resistance in the EU: infections with foodborne bacteria becoming harder to treat
Salmonella and Campylobacter are becoming increasingly resistant to ciprofloxacin, one of the antibiotics of choice for treating infections caused by these bacteria. The conclusion is part of the latest report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonoses released today by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which also presents some positive trends in the animal sector.
The latest data from humans, animals and food show that a large proportion of Salmonella bacteria are multidrug-resistant (resistant to three or more antimicrobials). In humans, resistance to ciprofloxacin is common, particularly in certain types of Salmonella, and resistance to high concentrations of ciprofloxacin increased overall from 1.7% (2016) to 4.6% (2018). For Campylobacter, 16 out of 19 countries report very high or extremely high percentages of ciprofloxacin resistance.
High proportions of resistance to ciprofloxacin are also reported in Salmonella and E. coli bacteria from poultry. Ciprofloxacin is a fluoroquinolone, a class of antimicrobials categorised as critically important for use in humans. If fluoroquinolones lose their effectiveness, the impact on human health could be significant.
However, combined resistance – simultaneous resistance to two critically important antimicrobials – to fluoroquinolones and third generation cephalosporines in Salmonella and to fluoroquinolones and macrolides in Campylobacter remains low.
For 2018, the report lists sporadic cases of human Salmonella infection with resistance to carbapenems, a last-line antimicrobial.
Mike Catchpole, ECDC’s chief scientist, said: Finding carbapenem resistance in foodborne bacteria in the EU is a concern. The most effective way to prevent the spread of carbapenem-resistant strains is to continue screening and responding promptly to positive detections. ECDC is working with EU Member States and with EFSA in a One Health approach to enhance the early detection and monitoring, in an effort to fight the persisting threat of antimicrobial-resistant zoonotic infections.
The report also includes key outcome indicators that help EU Member States assess their progress in reducing the use of antimicrobials and combatting antimicrobial resistance.
In food-producing animals, the summary indicator of susceptibility to all antimicrobials has increased in E. coli in just under 25% of Member States (6) over the period 2014-2018. This is a positive development as it means that in these countries, in case of need, treatments with antimicrobials would have a higher chance to be successful. Decreasing trends in the occurrence of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) or AmpC-producing E. coli have been observed in about 40% of Member States (11) during 2015-2018. This is also important because ESBL-AmpC-producing E. coli are responsible for serious infections in humans.
Regarding last-line antimicrobials, resistance to colistin was not common in Salmonella and E. coli, and carbapenemase-producing E. coli were not detected in broilers, turkeys and broiler meat.
The positive findings in food-producing animals are encouraging because they are a sign of improvement. However, we need to further investigate the reasons behind this change. Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to global public and animal health – or One Health – that requires global action, said Marta Hugas, EFSA’s chief scientist.
In humans, the decline in resistance to ampicillin and to tetracyclines in Salmonella Typhimurium in many countries is another encouraging trend observed in 2013-2018.
The EU Summary Report is an annual ECDC and EFSA publication which looks at the status of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria affecting humans, animals and food.
Read the report
The European Union Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food in 2017/2018
Data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and
food are collected annually by the EU Member States (MSs), jointly analysed by EFSA and ECDC and
reported in a yearly EU Summary Report.
Explore the data
Data visualisation - Antimicrobial resistance in Europe: The visualised data show the resistance of Salmonella, E. Coli and Campylobacter in food, animals and humans, country by country from 2018.