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Antimicrobial Resistance in Zoonotic and Indicator Bacteria from Humans, Animals, and Food in 2021/2022

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  • This Plain Language Summary (PLS) is a simplified communication of ECDC's and EFSA's Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in Zoonotic and Indicator Bacteria from Humans, Animals, and Food in 2021/2022
  • The purpose of the PLS is to enhance transparency and inform interested parties on the work of ECDC and EFSA on the topic using simplified language to present a summary of the main findings.
  • Anyone interested in the detailed results, analysis, and interpretation, should consult the full ECDC/EFSA report.

Antimicrobial resistance – an overview

  • Antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, are substances used to kill microorganisms or to stop them from growing and multiplying.
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) refers to the ability of microorganisms to withstand antimicrobial treatments.
  • The use of antimicrobials in humans and animals can lead to the emergence and spread of microorganisms which are resistant to them, rendering antimicrobial treatment ineffective and posing a serious risk to animal and public health.
  • When AMR occurs in zoonotic bacteria (i.e. bacteria present in animals and food that cause human infections), it can also compromise the effectiveness of treatment of infectious diseases in humans.

What is the role of EFSA and ECDC in monitoring AMR?

  • EFSA provides independent scientific support and advice to risk managers on the risks to human and animal health related to the possible emergence, spread and transfer of AMR in the food chain and in animals.
  • EFSA cooperates closely with other relevant EU agencies such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
  • Since 2011, EFSA and ECDC have compiled a joint report on AMR in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals, and food.

How did EFSA and ECDC carry out this work?

  • EFSA collected and analysed data on bacterial isolates from food-producing animals and food while ECDC collected and analysed data on isolates from human cases. These data were used to provide an overview of the current AMR situation, including details of the evolution of AMR trends in Europe, and they provide robust evidence for decision making.
  • The data were provided by the 27 EU Member States (MSs), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), two European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland and Norway), the Republic of North Macedonia, and Switzerland.
  • EFSA and ECDC jointly analysed the food-related data reported to EFSA and public health data from ECDC.
  • Data for pigs and calves are from 2021 while those for broilers and turkeys are from 2022.

What were the limitations of the data?

What are the main outcomes?

  • The reported findings and trends are consistent with those from the preceding years.
  • AMR in Campylobacter (particularly in C. coli) and in some strains of Salmonella bacteria remains high.
  • Campylobacter from humans and food-producing animals (broilers, fattening turkeys, fattening pigs and calves) continues to show very high resistance to ciprofloxacin, a commonly used antimicrobial in humans.
  • Combined resistance to critically important antimicrobials – defined as resistance to two different specific antimicrobials – was found to be low, in general, in Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli.
  • While individual variations across the EU were found, key outcome indicators show that significant progress has been made in reducing AMR in food-producing animals in several Member States.
  • The reporting of a number of carbapenemase (CP)-producing E. coli isolates (harbouring blaOXA-48, blaOXA-181, blaNDM-5 and blaVIM-1 genes) in pigs, cattle under one year of age, poultry and meat thereof by a limited number of MSs (5) in 2021 and 2022, requires a thorough follow-up.

Key implications and  recommendations

  • Caution in the use of antimicrobials in all sectors, including agriculture, is needed and recommended.
  • CP resistant isolates need to be monitored closely as CP are last line antimicrobials for human therapy, not used in food-producing animals. Sources of CP resistant isolates in livestock should be further investigated.
  • Differences in the occurrence of AMR in MSs can relate to historical or current patterns of antimicrobial use; however, it may also highlight differences in husbandry and/or other practices or strategies that may assist in the prevention of AMR.
  • Even if progress can be seen in many MSs, work to reduce selection and spread of AMR must continue all over Europe.