Reduced use of antibiotics is leading to fall in resistance

22 February 2024 | Muriel Cozier

‘Concerning trends in antibiotic resistance can be reversed with the right actions and policies.’

A European multi-agency study has concluded that countries where the consumption of antibiotics in both animals and humans has fallen, have also seen a reduction in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The fourth joint inter-agency report on the Integrated analysis of antimicrobial consumption and occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from humans and food producing animals in the European Union, presents primary data collected between 2019 and 2021 on antibiotics consumption and AMR in Europe.

Three agencies, including the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), analysed trends of antimicrobial consumption and AMR in Escherichia coli (E.coli) from both humans and food-producing animals. It was found that E.coli bacteria in both animals and humans are becoming less resistant to antibiotics as the overall antibiotic consumption is reduced. ‘This shows that the concerning trends in antibiotic resistance can be reversed with the right actions and policies,’ the agencies said.

As well as setting out the current state of AMR, the report calls for work in three areas. These are: continued efforts to tackle the problem at national, EU and global level; harmonised surveillance of antimicrobial consumption and AMR in human and animal sectors; and targeted studies to further understand the spread of AMR.

‘Using fewer antibiotics in livestock production pays off. In most countries that reduced antibiotic use, we observed a corresponding decrease in resistance levels. This means that national efforts work. It also highlights the EU’s commitment to the One Health approach, safeguarding both animal and global public health,’ said Bernhard Url, EFSA Executive Director. The One Health approach recognises the connection between the health of people and animals.

The agencies have also, for the first time, made the statistical code used to perform their analysis available. The aim is to encourage further investigation by researchers and other interested experts.

It is estimated that AMR causes the deaths of more than 35,000 people in Europe and costs €11.7 billion each year in healthcare, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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