The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Biological Hazards has published a Scientific Opinion raising concerns about the potential spread of resistance to carbapenem antibiotics in food-producing animals and their environment.
Carbapenems are clinically important ß-lactam antimicrobial drugs that are used to treat bacterial infections in humans. Bacteria can develop resistance to these drugs based on the production of the carbapenemase enzymes. The EFSA panel has evaluated the risk of transmission of resistance to human pathogens through food animal production.
The Panel says that carbapenemase-producing bacteria, including Salmonella Infantis and E. coli, have been isolated from pigs, poultry and cattle in the past. They propose a method for screening animal and food samples for carbenem resistance and recommend a monitoring programme focusing on poultry, fattening pigs and veal calves and their meat.
The Panel also suggests that continued prohibition of carbapenem use in food animals would help to control the spread of resistance and that a general reduction in the use of all antibiotics in animal production is also a high priority. Carbapenem resistance genes are mainly plasmid mediated and there is a danger that co-resistance may be a factor in the spread of resistance mechanisms.
The Opinion can be found in full here.