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EU: More evidence links antibiotic use, resistance

New report confirms link between antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance in both humans and food-producing animals.

The European Food Safety Authority, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control are concerned about the effect the use of antibiotics has 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.

The "Joint Interagency Antimicrobial Consumption & Resistance Analysis" (JIACRA) report points out that there are still important differences across the EU in the use of antibiotics in animals and humans, and reducing their unnecessary use will have an impact on the occurrence of resistance, the three agencies said.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for health and food safety, said, “To contain antibiotic resistance, we need to fight on three fronts at the same time: human, animal and the environment. This is exactly what we are trying to achieve in the EU and globally with our recently launched EU Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance.

“This new report confirms the link between antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance in both humans and food-producing animals,” Andriukaitis said.

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

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 multi-drug-resistant infections.

Other antibiotics are used in humans more often than in animals, including third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins and quinolones -- antibiotics that are also considered critically important for human health.

The report notes that resistance to quinolones, which are used to treat salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis in humans, is associated with use of antibiotics in animals. The use of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins for the treatment of infections caused by Escherichia coli and other bacteria in humans is associated with resistance to these antibiotics in E. coli found in people, the agencies said.

The report is the result of close cooperation among the three EU agencies, each of which drew upon their specific expertise and data from monitoring antibiotic resistance and antibiotic consumption in animals and humans.

The conclusions are in line with those of the first report published in 2015. However, the availability of better-quality data allowed for a more sophisticated analysis.

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

The report can be viewed online.

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