NARMS was established in 1996 to track antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria. Its annual Executive Report focuses on resistance to antibiotics that are considered important in human medicine, as well as multi-drug resistance – namely, resistance to three or more classes of antibiotics.
Under the program, samples are collected from human food-producing animals and retail meat sources, and tested for certain bacteria, specifically non-typhoidal salmonella, campylobacter, E.coli and enterococcus, to determine whether such bacteria are resistant to various antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine. The report also includes data on escherichia coli (E.coli) found in retail meats and chickens.
Among the key findings of the report were, during its 16-year history, NARMS has found salmonella resistance to ciprofloxacin – one of the most common antibiotics to treat salmonella infections in humans – to be very low: less than 0.5% in humans, less than 3% in retail meat, and less than 1% in animals at slaughter.
Multi-drug resistance in salmonella, from humans, slaughtered chickens and slaughtered swine was at its lowest level since the program started. However, multi-drug resistance from retail poultry meats generally increased.
Campylobacter resistance to the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin was shown to have increased slightly in isolates from humans, since 2005.
Erythromycin resistance in campylobacter jejuni (C.jejuni) has remained at less than 4% in isolates obtained from humans, retail chicken and slaughtered chicken since testing began, said the FDA.
Meanwhile, resistance to third-generation cephalosporins – another drug class used for the treatment of salmonella infections – rose among isolates from retail ground turkey between 2008 and 2011 and among certain salmonella serotypes in cattle between 2009 and 2011.
The FDA said that while some of the results were encouraging, the report underlined the need for continued work on reducing antimicrobial resistance.
Ashley Peterson, Ph.D, vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council (NCC), said: "NCC is pleased to see many positive trends in the data, including a decrease in resistance in several foodborne pathogens and that first-line antibiotics remain effective in treating illnesses.
"Though this data is from 2011, this report provides a strong case that the continued judicious use of antibiotics by poultry and livestock producers is aiding in the reduction of resistance in various foodborne pathogens.
"NCC supports FDA’s Guidance #213 – that is, phasing out the growth-promoting uses of those antibiotics in livestock and poultry used in human medicine. We believe this transition will continue to preserve the effectiveness of those antibiotics used to treat human illnesses."