New Report on Antibiotic Resistance in Animals, Food and Humans

A new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has found that bacteria from humans and animals continue to show resistance to antimicrobials[i].  The report highlights some emerging issues and confirms antimicrobial resistance as one of the biggest threats to public health[ii].

The main findings of the report in animals and food are:

  • Resistance to carbapenem antibiotics was detected at very low levels in poultry and in chicken meat in two member states. These antibiotics are not authorized for use in animals. They are used to treat serious infections in humans.
  • Two Livestock-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA) bacteria found in pigs were reported to be resistant to linezolid. Linezolid is one of the last-resort antimicrobials for treatment of infections caused by MRSA.
  • In poultry, clinical resistance to critically important antimicrobials was observed at very low to low levels in Salmonella (0.2%), Campylobacter (1%) and E. coli (1%).
  • Resistance to colistin, another last resort antibiotic, was observed at low levels (2%) in Salmonella and E. Coli in poultry.
  • Prevalence of ESBL-producing E. coli in poultry varies significantly between countries, with levels from low (10%) to extremely high (more than 70%). [Extended spectrum beta-lactamase is an enzyme related to antibiotic resistance]. These bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics.

The main findings in humans are:

  • One in four infections in humans are caused by Salmonella bacteria that show resistance to three or more antimicrobials. This proportion is substantially higher in some sub-species, such as Salmonella Kentucky (76.3%) and Salmonella Infantis (39.4%).
  • ESBL-producing Salmonella Kentucky with high resistance to ciprofloxacin was detected in four countries. It is not possible to treat these bacteria with critically important antibiotics.
  • Campylobacter bacteria, which are the most common source of food poisoning in the EU, show high resistance to widely used antibiotics. In some countries, at least one in three Campylobacter coli infections were multidrug-resistant to important antibiotics, leaving very few treatment options for severe infections.

Overall, combined resistance to multiple critical antibiotics was low in both animals and humans. However, high to extremely high multidrug resistance levels were observed in some Salmonella variants.


[i] The European Union summary report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and indicator bacteria from humans, animals and food in 2016. EFSA Journal. 16 (2). February 2018 (Accessed 7 March 2018)

[ii] Antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria still high in humans, animals and food, say ECDC and EFSA. EFSA News 27 February 2018 (Accessed 7 March 2018)