Antimicrobial consumption can lead to human resistance, says new report

The report by European Union agencies has analysed surveillance data for 2011 and 2012

By Mouna Nagaraju
Published: Thursday 05 February 2015


A report released by three European Union (EU) agencies underscores, amongst others, correlations between antimicrobial consumption in food-producing animals and resistance in bacteria from humans in certain cases. Correlations, in general, were also found between antimicrobial consumption and resistance in food-producing animals.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), on January 30, 2015, released their first joint report on the integrated analysis of the consumption of antimicrobial agents and occurrence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans and food-producing animals. The report which is the first in a series, explores associations between antimicrobial consumption and resistance in humans and food-producing animals. The analysis which was performed on the request of the European Commission (EC) will inform the EC’s action plan of 2011 against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance.

The report analyses surveillance data obtained from different monitoring networks in the EU for 2011 and 2012—from EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The report also compares antimicrobial consumption in food-producing animals and humans. While the report observes that the overall consumption of antimicrobials is higher in food-producing animals than in humans, the consumption of antimicrobials critically important for human medicine (such as 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones) was found to be higher in humans.  

Combined data on antimicrobial consumption and the corresponding resistance in animals and humans in the countries considered were analysed using statistical models for select combinations of bacteria and antimicrobials.  For the analysis, a summary indicator of the proportion of resistant bacteria in the main food-producing animal species was calculated. 

Although the report is cautionary against highlighting the findings due to limited data and complexity of the problem of AMR, it reinforces the linkage between antimicrobial consumption in food-producing and resistance in humans, which has been questioned by many people including those from the scientific community. In addition, the report calls for improving the existing surveillance systemsby collecting more comprehensive data and carrying out targeted research to explain the observed correlations. More importantly, the report recommends the responsible use of antimicrobials in both humans and animals.


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