The role played by the environment in the spread of antimicrobial resistance has not been sufficiently researched.
Scientists from the European Food Safety Authority have, for the first time, published an assessment of the role played by the food production and its environment in the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The assessment was conducted by the Panel on Biological Hazards.
The EFSA says that fertilisers of faecal origin, irrigation and water are the most significant sources of AMR in plant-based food production and aquaculture. In terrestrial animal production, potential sources of AMR include feed, humans, water, air or dust, soil, wildlife, rodents, arthropods and equipment.
Publishing the findings in the EFSA Journal, measures to mitigate the spread of AMR, applicable for all food production sectors include the correct implementation of good hygiene practices. Focusing on plant production; reducing the bacterial content of manure, sewage, sludge and irrigation water was deemed important. In livestock, prevention of transmission from other animals, e.g. rodents and wild birds along with proper implementation of cleaning and disinfection was highlighted, while in aquaculture, high microbial water quality and measures to prevent feed contamination were cited as priorities.
The EFSA says that a number of data gaps exit in relation to the sources and transmission routes of antimicrobial resistant bacteria (ARB) and resistant genes in livestock and food. In addition, the role played by the environment is not sufficiently researched, and there is insufficient data to support a specific assessment of the impact of contamination on the EU food production environment or public health.
Priorities put forward for further research included; developing standardized methodologies for detecting ARB, with defined sampling strategies for the different food production environments, along with validating the efficacy of practical mitigation methods e.g. current bio-security and hygiene-based control programmes.