Risk assessment of antimicrobial resistance along the food chain through culture‐independent methodologies

Antimicrobial resistance, risk assessment, surveillance, food-borne pathogens, wholegenome sequencing, metagenomics
First published in the EFSA Journal
27 August 2018
6 July 2018
Special Issue


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents a major challenge for Public Health and the scientific community, and requires immediate and drastic solutions. Acquired resistance to certain antimicrobials is already widespread to such an extent that their efficacy in the treatment of certain life‐threatening infections is already compromised. To date, the emergence and spread of AMR has been attributed to the use, misuse or indiscriminate use of antibiotics as therapeutic drugs in human, animal and plant health, or as growth promoters in veterinary husbandry. In addition, there is growing concern over the possibility of AMR transmission via the food chain. Food processing environments could act as potential hotspots for AMR acquisition and spread. Indeed, biocide use and exposure to food‐related stresses and food processing technologies could presumably act as selection pressures for increased microbial resistance against clinically relevant antibiotics. Global AMR surveillance is critical for providing the necessary information to form global strategies and to monitor the effectiveness of public health interventions as well as to detect new trends and emerging threats. Surveillance of AMR is currently based on the isolation of indicator microorganisms and the phenotypic characterisation of the strains isolated. However, this approach provides very limited information on the mechanisms driving AMR or on the presence and spread of AMR genes. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) of bacterial pathogens is a powerful tool that can be used for epidemiological surveillance, outbreak detection and infection control. In addition, whole metagenome sequencing (WMS) allows for the culture‐independent analysis of complex microbial communities, providing useful information on the occurrence of AMR genes. Both approaches can be used to provide the information necessary for the implementation of quantitative risk assessment of AMR transmission routes along the food chain.

eu-fora [at] efsa.europa.eu
EFSA Journal 2018;16(S1):e160811

The full opinion will be published in accordance with article 8(6) of Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 once the decision on confidentiality, in line with article 18(2) of the Regulation, will be received from the European Commission.

This report is funded by EFSA as part of the EU‐FORA programme.