The call follows publication of a study which showed that 60.2% of campylobacter bacteria taken from people treated for infections in Europe in 2014 were resistant to ciproflaxin, which is used to treat infections that do not respond to other antibiotics.
The report, by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), also showed that 69.8% of campylobacter isolates from broiler chickens were resistant to ciproflaxin.
As well as growing resistance to common antimicrobials, the bacteria tested also displayed increased multi-drug resistance. For example, 26% of salmonella samples taken from humans, 24.8% from broiler meat and 30.5% from turkey meat were found to be resistant to several antibiotics.
With campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis respectively the first and second-most common food-borne diseases in the EU, heightened resistance poses a serious health risk to both humans and animals.
“Every year in the EU, infections caused by antimicrobial resistance lead to about 25,000 deaths,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU commissioner for health and food safety, “But the threat is not confined to the EU. This is a global problem that requires a global solution.”
Emphasising that are recent Chinese findings that E.coli bacteria are developing immunity to colistin, used in some countries to control outbreaks, especially in pigs.
Mike Catchpole, chief scientist for the ECDC, said “This is worrying because it means that this last-resort drug may soon no longer be effective for treating severe human infections with salmonella.” Resistance was previously thought to be unlikely to be transferred between bacteria, but the corresponding mcr-1 gene was found on transferrable plasmids in China.
“International cooperation is a key element of the European Commission’s action plan against antimicrobial resistance,” said a spokesperson for the ECDC.
The ECDC, EFSA, as well as the European Medicines Agency, are currently working with equivalent bodies in the US, Canada and Norway, via the Transatlantic Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance (Taftar). The latter was created in 2009 to coordinate efforts against drug-resistant infections.
The EDCD spokesperson identified three key strategies for combatting antimicrobial resistance: “Prudent use of antibiotics; implementation of good infection-control practices; and promoting the development of new antibiotics with novel mechanisms of action (as resistance inevitably builds over time). The latter is an area where the drug industry itself can support efforts.”
With bacterial infections sometimes seen as diseases of the poor, drug companies have regarded antibiotic research as insufficiently profitable. Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, a public-private partnership, is one project that is attempting to address this shortfall.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year endorsed its own global-level action plan aimed at ensuring access to affective antimicrobial agents at affordable prices. Member states committed to implementation of the plan, as well as devising similar initiatives at national level, by 2017.