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French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 19/11/2020


A unique scheme for monitoring the development of antimicrobial resistance

Keywords : Antimicrobial resistance, Antibiotics, Resapath, Veterinary medicinal products, Animal health, Colistin

The development of antimicrobial resistance in animal and human bacteria is a major public health issue requiring an integrated approach across all types of medicine, according to the "One Health" concept covering both humans and animals. ANSES has mobilised significant resources to combat antimicrobial resistance, in particular by coordinating the French Surveillance Network for Antimicrobial Resistance in Pathogenic Bacteria of Animal Origin (Resapath), which is devoted to monitoring resistance in bacteria responsible for infections in all animal species. Resapath is both an essential tool for monitoring animal antimicrobial resistance and a key forum for cooperation among stakeholders in human and veterinary medicine. 

Resapath's objectives

The objective of the Resapath network is to monitor trends in the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria of importance in animal health, detect certain emergence phenomena and characterise the molecular mechanisms involved, as well as to provide methodological and scientific support to all the players involved (training days, inter-laboratory tests, formulation of opinions and advice, drafting of reference standards, etc.). It also coordinates studies between member laboratories.

Resapath is the only veterinary network to be a member of the National Observatory for Epidemiology of Bacterial Resistance to Antimicrobials (ONERBA), which brings together several networks in human medicine. Its work is thus continuously in phase with current issues in the field of antibiotic resistance in both humans and animals, at national and international levels.  

Resapath's annual results

The Resapath network collects antibiogram data on pathogenic bacteria of animal origin in France. Veterinary practitioners, when treating their patients, often take samples from sick animals for bacterial isolation and an antibiogram. These antibiograms, performed in public or private veterinary testing laboratories that take part in Resapath on a voluntary basis, are collected by the network. Each year, a Resapath report presents the results of the previous year concerning the monitoring of animal antimicrobial resistance.

Resapath continued to expand in 2017: it encompassed 71 laboratories, covering 99 French départements, and collected 56,286 antibiograms. Yet again this year, the network recorded a decrease in resistance to critical antibiotics, in particular that of E. coli to third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins. More generally, the overall decline or stabilisation seen over the past few years continued in 2017.

The decrease in resistance to tetracycline in the poultry sectors, and to a lesser extent in the pig sector, is the most striking phenomenon. It should also be noted that over the period 2011-2017, the proportion of multi-resistant bacterial strains fell significantly in all species, except in horses, for which an increase can be observed for the past three years. These results are consistent with the considerable reductions in animal exposure to antibiotics noted in recent years, in the context of the Ecoantibio plans. The new 2017-2021 plan should enable this reduction in resistance to be consolidated across all antibiotics, in particular through the prudent and responsible use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

A unique European model for monitoring resistance

In 36 years of monitoring pathogenic bacteria in France, this network has become an established part of the animal antimicrobial resistance landscape. Its ability to extend its scope has consolidated its legitimacy, from cattle in 1982 to pigs and poultry in 2001, and then dogs, cats and horses in 2007. The quality of the data it produces is the result of constant vigilance by the players in effective use of the analytical methods, rigorous data collection and transmission, and interpretation of the results in light of the latest scientific knowledge. It therefore represents a combined effort by all involved, and particularly the member laboratories.

In Europe, the Resapath network led by ANSES constitutes a unique model in a context where many other Member States are considering the implementation of similar schemes for monitoring their national plans. This ambition is also reflected in Measure 39 of the interministerial roadmap, and was formalised in the European Joint Action (EU-JAMRAI) initiated in September 2017 and coordinated by France, which includes a veterinary component devoted to developing this structure on a European scale.

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