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Europe: Report shows link between antibiotic use, resistance

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The European Food Safety Authority, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are concerned about the impact of use of antibiotics on the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A new report from the three agencies presents new data on antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance and reflects improved surveillance across Europe.

“To contain antibiotic resistance we need to fight on three fronts at the same time: human, animal and the environment,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety.

“This is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the EU and globally with our recently launched EU Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance.”

A diverse picture

The Joint Interagency Antimicrobial Consumption and Resistance Analysis (JIACRA) report highlights that there are still important differences across the EU in the use of antibiotics in animals and humans.

Reducing their unnecessary use will have an impact on the occurrence of resistance.

Overall antibiotic use is higher in food-producing animals than in humans, but the situation varies across countries and according to the antibiotics.

In particular, a class of antibiotics called polymyxins – which includes colistin – is used widely in the veterinary sector.

It is also increasingly used in hospitals to treat multidrug-resistant infections.

Other antibiotics are more often used in humans than in animals.

These include third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins and quinolones, antibiotics that are also considered critically important for human health.

Links between antibiotic use and resistance

The report notes that resistance to quinolones, used to treat salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis in humans, is associated with the use of antibiotics in animals.

The use of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins for the treatment of infections caused by E. coli and other bacteria in humans is associated with resistance to these antibiotics in E. coli found in humans.

Experts of the three agencies recommend further research to better understand how the use of antibiotics and resistance affect one another.