The extensive use of antibiotics over the past few decades has led to the selection of bacteria able to resist them, which pose a significant threat to both animal and human health. Indeed, antibiotics effective against pathogenic bacteria are diminishing in number, and are even non-existent for certain multidrug-resistant strains. The FAO has put in place a global action plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in farming, thereby avoiding the selection of resistant bacteria. On 25 November 2020, it appointed ANSES as one of its Reference Centres for antimicrobial resistance.
A subject mobilising several of the Agency's entities
This appointment reaffirms the Agency's role as an expert on antimicrobial resistance. In France, ANSES is the National Reference Laboratory on this issue. Moreover, Agency scientists have already contributed to FAO expert panels on this topic.
The Reference Centre will be able to draw on ANSES's "Antimicrobial resistance" cross-functional team, which coordinates the Agency's expert appraisal, research and surveillance activities on antimicrobial resistance (see box). It consists of a network of four main laboratories: Lyon, Ploufragan-Plouzané-Niort, Fougères and the Laboratory for Food Safety (Maisons-Alfort and Boulogne-sur-Mer sites). Other ANSES entities also contribute, in particular the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products (ANMV) and the Nancy Laboratories for Hydrology and Animal Health. The FAO Reference Centre will be headed by Jean-Yves Madec, Director of the Antimicrobial Resistance and Bacterial Virulence Unit at the Lyon Laboratory, and Scientific Director of the "Antimicrobial resistance" cross-functional team.
The roles of the FAO Reference Centre for antimicrobial resistance
ANSES will support the FAO's activities, working closely with the other designated reference centres on antimicrobial resistance. This will include helping to raise awareness among political and scientific stakeholders about the issues involved, mainly by producing recommendation documents to enhance surveillance and reduce antimicrobial resistance, and to improve monitoring of antibiotic use and encourage prudence among users.
The Agency will also support development of a global antimicrobial resistance database and assist in interpreting its data. It will act in an advisory role to the FAO, participating in expert meetings and consultations, and issuing opinions. It will also take part in collaborative research on the use of antibiotics and the development of alternatives to them. Lastly, ANSES will organise inter-laboratory testing between several countries around the world to assess and harmonise their antimicrobial resistance detection capabilities, and contribute to international training initiatives on antimicrobial resistance.
Implementation of this reference centre mandate will be consistent with ANSES's actions supported by the international component of the EcoAntibio plan, such as the setting up of inter-laboratory testing on antimicrobial resistance in African countries, similar to that conducted within the framework of the French Resapath network.
Work on antimicrobial resistance at ANSES
Since 2017, antimicrobial resistance has been one of the Agency's six strategic cross-functional themes. These are designed to strengthen scientific coordination and synergies between the units conducting research, surveillance and reference work in their respective fields.
ANSES conducts multiple activities on antimicrobial resistance. Through the French Agency for Veterinary Medicinal Products, it issues marketing authorisations for medicines for animals, while giving due consideration to the risks of development of resistance. It also monitors how these products are employed and makes recommendations on their use and possible alternatives. ANSES coordinates three networks that detect the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria: Resapath (the French surveillance network for antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic bacteria of animal origin), Vigimyc, which monitors the development of antimicrobial resistance of bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma in animals, and the Salmonella network, which detects the presence of this bacterium in food, livestock and the environment. The Agency also hosts the National Reference Laboratory in support of the European strategy for monitoring antimicrobial resistance in the food chain (slaughterhouse and meat). Lastly, ANSES conducts research to better understand the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance and their transmission between different ecosystems (human, animal, food, environment), according to a "One Health" approach.