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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Antimicrobial resistance: a day to take stock

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News of 18/11/2010

19 November 2010

On 18 November 2010, in the context of the European Antibiotic Awareness Day, ANSES organised a day-long seminar on Antimicrobial Resistance in Animals in cooperation with the Directorate General for Food and the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Affairs (DG Sanco) of the European commission. The seminar was attended by more than 250 people from many different sectors - veterinarians, doctors, manufacturers and researchers.

A review was made of work undertaken around the world and in Europe, with the presentation of many results. The review described the paths for transmission of bacteria and genes involved in antimicrobial resistance as well as the ways in which antimicrobial resistance is transferred between humans and the environment, and between animals (including domestic pets) and the environment.

The complex interactions between exposure to antibiotics and the development of antimicrobial resistance was addressed through specific examples: resistance to florfenicol in strains of Escherichia Coli in calves, resistance of Staphylococcus aureus to methicillin (MRSA) in pigs and Escherichia Coli producing extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL). Comparative epidemiology of beta-lactamases revealed not only the spread of bacterial clones between humans and various animal species, but also the dissemination of genetic determinants of resistance.

All of this information was obtained through epidemic surveillance networks set up and run by ANSES, such as RESAPATH (which is a member of the National Observatory for Epidemiology of Antimicrobial Resistance - ONERBA), the 'Salmonella' network and the control and surveillance plans for farms, slaughterhouses and foods. ANSES collects all available data in France on the evolution of antimicrobial resistance both for public and animal health in the form of reports (Farm 3, RESAPATH, Salmonella network).

Pharmaco-epidemiology research on the use of antibiotics for animal production complements data gathered by the Observatory of antibiotic sales. The first results of these studies were presented during the seminar. In 2009 the total sales of antibiotics came to 1056 tonnes, which was the lowest amount recorded since the monitoring first began (-20% since 1999). However, the sales volume of antibiotics does not accurately reflect their use. This is because recent antibiotics are more potent and thus require a lower dose. In order to evaluate the exposure of animals to antibiotics, it is necessary to take into account not only the dosage of the antibiotics and the duration of the period of administration, but also the evolution of animal populations over time. For instance, between 1999 and 2009, the level of exposure of animals to antibiotics administered orally or parentally, for all families combined, increased by 12.5%. For the 3rd and 4th generation fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins, which are particularly important antibiotics for human medicine, the exposure of animals has respectively doubled and tripled since 1999.

While it would appear that between 2008 and 2009, the sales of fluoroquinolones and animal exposure to them did not vary and diminished for cephalosporins, the sharp increase in their use since 1999 is cause for concern.

During the information day, the Directorate General for Food confirmed that a national committee for rational use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine would soon be set up. It also outlined what it expected this committee to achieve. The various stakeholders in animal health described the measures undertaken for rational use of antibiotics: for instance full disclosure of sales of antibiotics, a veterinarians' guide to good practice in antibiotic therapy and the listing of risk-related practices per species, type of production and pathogen.

During the seminar the stakeholders in animal health clearly expressed their awareness of the seriousness of the problem and described specific action plans for various organisations.

ANSES stated that it considered the subject to be a priority and would mobilise all of its resources, including its laboratories, the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products (ANMV) and its expert committees-in order to determine a scientific basis for recommendations to public authorities and prescribers of antibiotics from now to the end of 2011. The Agency announced the three steps it would be taking:

  • to collect data to better identify uses in the various sectors
  • to undertake research to better understand the mechanisms involved
  • to evaluate risks related to the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine in order to be able to make recommendations to public authorities and prescribers

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