EU figures show high levels of antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria

Antibiotic resistance in Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria is still high based on the latest European figures.

The data covers 2019 to 2020, according to a report published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Levels on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Salmonella and Campylobacter and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food are collected annually by the 27 EU member states and analyzed by EFSA and ECDC.

Reporting was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic affecting laboratory resources, the number of isolates, and the UK no longer being an EU country.

Campylobacter and Salmonella findings
Campylobacter bacteria from humans and poultry continue to show very high resistance to ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic that is common for treating some types of bacterial human infections. Increasing trends of resistance against the fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics has been observed in humans and broiler chickens for Campylobacter jejuni.

Erythromycin resistance was either not detected or at very low levels in Campylobacter jejuni from humans but at higher levels in Campylobacter coli isolates from people. Resistance decreased a lot from 2019 to 2020. This could be because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions reducing the number of travel-associated campylobacteriosis infections in 2020, according to the report.

Combined resistance to both ciprofloxacin and erythromycin, which are critically important to treat campylobacteriosis, was rare to low in Campylobacter jejuni from humans and low to moderate in Campylobacter coli.

Multidrug resistance in isolates tested for four antimicrobial classes — fluoroquinolones, macrolides, tetracyclines and aminoglycosides — was very low in Campylobacter jejuni and low in Campylobacter coli.

In Salmonella from human cases, resistance to ampicillin, sulfonamides and tetracyclines was at overall high levels, while resistance to third-generation cephalosporins in 2020 was at very low levels for both cefotaxime and ceftazidime. A moderate level of resistance to the critically important antimicrobial ciprofloxacin was seen but among Salmonella Kentucky isolates there was an extremely high prevalence of resistance.

For Salmonella Enteritidis, increasing trends of resistance to the quinolone/fluoroquinolone class of antibiotics were seen.

Multidrug resistance was high overall among Salmonella reported from human cases in Europe. Eight isolates were resistant to eight of the nine tested substances, only susceptible to meropenem.

Combined resistance to two critically important antibiotics remains low for E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter in bacteria from both humans and food-producing animals.

Indicator bacteria
For antimicrobial resistance in indicator E. coli bacteria, large differences in the levels of resistance were found between countries. The 2020 monitoring focused on poultry and such meat, while the focus in 2019 was on pigs and calves less than 1 year old. It also included presumptive ESBL-/AmpC-/carbapenemase-producing E. coli isolates.

In more than half of EU countries, a significant decreasing trend in the prevalence of extended-spectrum Beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli was observed in food-producing animals. This is important as particular strains of ESBL-producing E. coli are responsible for serious infections in humans, said the report.

Occurrence of ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli in food-producing animals and on broiler meat is still high but appears to be going down.

Carbapenem resistance remains extremely rare in E. coli and Salmonella from food-producing animals. Carbapenems are a class of last resort antibiotics. In 2020, five isolates of E. coli with a carbapenemase phenotype were detected during monitoring.

Voluntary monitoring data was also provided on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in livestock and food.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)