Free-range chicken© Tim Scrivener

Increasing levels of resistance to antimicrobials in food-borne bacteria, such as campylobacter from poultrymeat in the UK are being found, according to a study.

The study – a systematic review of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) bacteria in UK retail products – has recommended research and surveillance efforts be continued to monitor AMR trends in both food-borne and commensal bacteria in British and imported chicken and poultrymeat in the UK.

Conducted by the Royal Veterinary College for the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the aim of the study was to assess the prevalence of AMR bacteria that could pose a risk to consumers.

It looked at published evidence between 1999 and 2016.

The FSA said it was releasing the report ahead of a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius (a global food standards body) working group on AMR, which will set terms of reference for an intergovernmental task force that will follow.

Data

The review confirmed there was a lack of AMR prevalence data for British-produced food and to a lesser extent in countries that exported food to the UK.

It called for further efforts to be made to develop surveillance programmes that would identify trends in the prevalence of AMR bacteria in foods.

If this was tackled, this could lead to a framework for assessing potential risks associated with exposure among British consumers.

The specific desk research on AMR in poultrymeat noted there was more research in this sector than other livestock sector.

Upwards trend

It found there had been an upwards trend to fluoroquinolone resistance since 2001, when resistance levels were at 12.6% and 15.6% in Campylobacter jejuni isolates from chickenmeat from conventional systems, according to previous FSA surveys.

Resistance to the antibiotics ciprofloxacin and nalidixic acid rose from 15-22% in 2005 to 21.7% and 23.1% in 2007-8 and was at a high in 2015-16 of 50% and 51.5%.

Erthromycin resistance in Campylobacter jejuni from British chicken has however decreased between 2005 and 2014-15 from levels between 4-5% to 1%.

Prevalence of multiple-drug resistant bacteria has increased in recent years from 19.1% in 2008 to 43.4% in 2014-15 in Campylobacter jejuni isolates from chickenmeat at retail level in the UK – with the common phenotypes being ciprofloxacin, nalidixic acid, tetracyclines and trimethoprim.