Antibiotic-resistant bacteria may spread to humans

by Editor
Friday, September 24, 2010

Scientists speaking at the conference for ‘Antimicrobial resistance: from farm to fork and beyond’ revealed alarming new levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in intensively reared farm animals that have the potential to spread to humans.

In his keynote speech Professor Gary French from Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital & King's College, London told delegates at that one would face the potential loss of antimicrobial therapy. Effective national and international programmes of control to combat these problems were urgently needed.

Presentations from British government scientists admited that a new, almost untreatable, type of antibiotic resistance in E. coli, known as extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) resistance, has spread from the handful of farms on which it had been identified, to more than one in three of all dairy farms in England and Wales. One study linked the rise of ESBL E. coli on farms to the increasing farm use of modern antibiotics classified by the WHO as critically important in human medicine. The same study presented evidence that the unregulated sale of animals from first infected farms has increased the problem.

In a further development, Professor John Thelfall from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) presented evidence on a highly drug-resistant strain of salmonella associated with pigs and pigmeat, which has caused human outbreaks in ten European countries, and will pose the question, ‘Is this the next multi-drug resistant epidemic European Salmonella?’ Alarmingly, this same strain has now also been found in British pigs with additional ESBL resistance.