Report: Superbugs becoming even more antibiotic resistant

February 16, 2016

Superbug versions of foodborne pathogens have become more resistant to antibiotics in certain areas of the world than was previously thought—a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns.

For example, Campylobacter, the most commonly reported cause of food poisoning in the EU, has shown it is increasingly able to survive ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic commonly used against foodborne pathogens.

In the study, ciprofloxacin resistance hit 60% in Campylobacter isolates from European people, the report states. In addition, Salmonella’s resistance to antibiotics is also strengthening, with its resistance to multiple antibiotics reported at 26% of human isolates involved in the study.

The report also illustrates how closely animal and human health are intertwined, as ciprofloxacin resistance in Campylobacter reached 69.8% in broiler chickens also tested in the study. Similarly, Salmonella isolates showed resistance to multiple antibiotics in 25-30% of poultry samples studied.

There were large differences in antibiotic resistance across countries, however, with German poultry samples showing 69% resistance vs. only 15% in Denmark. A recent article states this difference could be related to the quinolone antibiotic produced and used largely in Germany.

According to the British government-commissioned review of the report, increased use of vaccines in both people and animals would reduce the need to use antibiotics and help fight the rise of drug-resistant superbug infections.

The report states that vaccines can combat drug resistance because they reduce cases of infection and lessen the need for antibiotics. Use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of multi-drug-resistant infections, or superbugs, British treasury minister Jim O’Neill, said in another article.

“There are vaccines available now that could have a massive impact on antibiotic use and resistance, as well as saving many lives if used more widely,” O’Neill said. He also mentioned in the article that if a focus is placed on developing new vaccines, less antibiotics could eventually be used.

As an example, he said vaccines that protect against a bug that causes pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumonia—which kills more than 800,000 children a year—should be given worldwide.

“Universal coverage with a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, something that is already used in many parts of the world, could largely prevent the 800,000 yearly deaths of children under five caused by Streptococcus pneumonia,” O’Neill said in the article. “It could also prevent over 11 million days of antibiotic use in these children, reducing the chance of resistance developing.”

The British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to review the report’s results and set forth plans of action by May of this year.

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Category: Food Safety