Antimicrobial resistance stakeholder meeting
Monday 17 August 2009
The Agency held a meeting with interested parties on 29 November 2007 to discuss key issues concerning antimicrobial (antibiotic) resistance in bacteria and the role that the foodchain may play in this phenomenon. The primary aim of the meeting was to consider the risk to consumers from antibiotic resistant bacteria in the foodchain and how to address this.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a microorganism to withstand an antibiotic. Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics used to treat disease in humans are a particular problem in modern medicine. Resistance to antibiotics is often transferable to other bacteria where it may increase in frequency in a bacterial population in response to selective pressure. The primary selective pressure that drives the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the use of antibiotics.
It is generally accepted that, for the majority of bacteria that cause human infections, the main cause of antibiotic resistant infections in people is antibiotic use in human medicine. However, it is also recognised that the use of antibiotics in animals is an important factor in the development of antibiotic resistance in some organisms associated with food poisoning. Use can also affect the degree of antibiotic resistance shown by other bacteria carried by animals.
The meeting included presentations from expert speakers on topics including:
- antimicrobial resistance in foodborne zoonotic pathogens and commensals
- antimicrobial use and resistance issues in food animal production
- antimicrobial use and resistance issues in humans
- transmission pathways of bacteria resistant to antimicrobials
- emerging issues such as extended spectrum beta-lactamase producing E. coli and meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
These were followed by a discussion forum to obtain stakeholder views on consumer issues, risk assessment, international issues (such as imported food/feed) and the role of the FSA.
Delegates highlighted a range of issues that they felt to be important. These included:
- The need to assess the degree of antimicrobial resistance in the foodchain, including foods on retail sale. It was suggested that there should be a greater emphasis on screening for antimicrobial resistance in non-pathogenic bacteria as these organisms are more abundant than pathogens.
- Imported foods and animal feeds were felt to be an important area for investigation as these may play a role in the introduction of new antimicrobial resistant bacteria or resistance genes.
- There was a general view that there is a further need to look at systems of food production (animal husbandry), particularly antimicrobial use, and although this responsibility falls under Defra’s remit delegates felt that it was important that the FSA should be involved in this process.
The outputs from this meeting will help to inform the development of an Agency strategy on antimicrobial resistance.
The full report of the meeting and the speakers’ presentations can be found at the links below.