Antimicrobial resistance –what are researchers doing about it?


We are very excited to welcome our first guest blogger today on Building Bridges.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) often makes front page news in both the veterinary and human public health worlds, and increasingly for the right reasons with many countries finally enforcing strategies to reduce antimicrobial use in both humans and animals.

The overuse or misuse of antibiotics has been linked to the emergence and spread of micro-organisms which are resistant to antimicrobial treatments, rendering them ineffective.


When it comes to food safety, policy-makers need to protect consumers from risks, such as AMR, which related to the food chain. The best control strategies for those risks must be derived from the work of scientists examining the factors which may contribute to the presence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food and animals.

Ioannis Magouras

One such researcher is Dr Ioannis Magouras from the Veterinary Public Health Institute in Switzerland who is sharing with us today some of the exciting research on AMR in livestock taking place in his research group with Luís Pedro Carmo.


Following their discovery, antimicrobials have revolutionised medicine and are undoubtedly essential for the treatment of bacterial infections in both humans and animals. However, during the last decades the continuing rapid development of bacterial resistance to antimicrobials has emerged as one of the most worrying public health threats. It is indeed the exposure to antimicrobials that provides the necessary selective pressure for the emergence and dissemination of resistant pathogens. As early as in the 1960’s, attention was drawn to the possible implications of antimicrobial usage in food-producing animals on the development of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Livestock can act as a reservoir of resistant bacteria that can spread to humans over different ways. Numerous studies demonstrate an association between the amounts of antimicrobials used in livestock and the levels of resistance found in bacteria. Therefore monitoring antimicrobial consumption is a basic step in the control of antimicrobial resistance.

At the Veterinary Public Health Institute in Bern, antimicrobial usage and resistance in livestock has a central position in the Institute’s research agenda.

One of the projects deals with the basic question; how much antimicrobials is used in livestock production on a species level?  Quantitative antimicrobial usage data are essential for describing the association between usage and resistance and for observing potential temporal patterns in resistance development. In Switzerland, only antimicrobial sales data are available, which do not provide any information on antimicrobial consumption at a species level. In our project we applied and compared 3 different models to stratify total antimicrobial sales data through a combination of these with animal demographic data, antimicrobial product characteristics and prescription data from a field study. These approaches are of value for countries which do not have yet put in place detailed monitoring systems, but where overall sales data are available.

Another project implemented in 3 European countries aims to assess the veterinarians’ perspective on the usage of antimicrobials during the production cycle of different livestock species (broilers, swine, dairy cattle and veal/fattening calves) through an expert elicitation. This will help to understand the differences between countries and most importantly to identify areas of intervention (from vaccination through improved diagnostics to education of farmers and veterinarians) that could help to further reduce antimicrobial usage in livestock.

We also conduct a systematic review on the relationship between veterinary antimicrobial usage and resistance in indicator and zoonotic bacteria found in cattle, pigs and poultry. We hope that this literature search will strengthen our evidence on the link between usage and resistance and will help to identify research gaps which could shape future research on this complex topic.

Denmark has data of outstanding quality on antimicrobial usage and resistance. In collaboration with researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, we are conducting two projects with Danish data: (1) a time-series analysis on the ecological association between the national consumption of certain antimicrobials and the levels of resistance observed in the Danish monitoring programme; (2) the Danish monitoring system on antimicrobial prescription allows for attainment of data at farm level; we will investigate the link between the levels of antimicrobial usage at farm level and the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria from those same settings.

We very much look forward at Epi-Connect to read the upcoming publications from these projects and see how they add value to the body of evidence on AMR in European livestock systems. Thank you Ioannis!

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