Superbugs pose alarming threat to public health: EU report

The report finds high drug-resistance in three common zoonotic bacteria, which can be transferred to humans through food or environment

By Rajeshwari Sinha
Published: Thursday 23 February 2017

Even today, India does not have a national surveillance framework to track antimicrobial resistance in animals and environment (Credit: iStock)

Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to public and veterinary health, a report by European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has reaffirmed. The report accesses the level of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria from humans, animals and food.

Data submitted by 28 member states of the European Union in 2015 provides an overview of resistance in Salmonella isolates from humans, food-producing animals (pigs and calves), and their meat, Campylobacter isolates from humans and pigs, and Escherichia coli isolates from pigs, calves, and their meat. SalmonellaCampylobacter, and E coli are all zoonotic bacteria, which can be transferred from animals to humans through food or environment.

The report has shown high multi-drug resistance (MDR) in Salmonella across the EU, a bacteria that causes common food-borne disease. Resistance to colistin—a last resort antibiotic—has been detected in Salmonella and E. coli in pigs and cattle. More than 10 per cent of the tested Campylobacter coli bacteria in humans showed resistance to critically important antimicrobials, fluoroquinolones and macrolides.

Mapping the geographical extent of resistance, the report finds that countries in northern and western Europe have lower resistance levels than those in southern and eastern parts.

"Antimicrobial resistance is an alarming threat putting human and animal health in danger," says Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU commissioner for health and food safety. "We have put substantial efforts to stop its rise, but this is not enough. We must be quicker, stronger and act on several fronts," he adds.

Monitoring AMR in humans, food animals and food is crucial to understand its spread and trends and develop targeted interventions. While the developed countries, particularly EU, have a head start in this direction, the developing world falls back due to limited awareness, weak laws and inadequate implementation.

Although developing countries and rest of the world have recognised the impact of building AMR on human health, animals- and environment-related effects have received limited attention.

Even today, India does not have a national surveillance framework to track AMR in animals. A large information gap exists on antibiotic sales or usage in animals. The need to fill this gap was highlighted by experts in an international workshop organised by Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

India is inching closer to finalising its National Action Plan on AMR, being formulated on the lines of “one-health” with inputs from agencies on health, animal husbandry, fishery, environment and industry. India should consider adopting practices and lessons from other countries with advanced understanding of AMR in its national plan.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.