The challenge of antimicrobial resistance - a holistic consideration and the latest insights into risk perception
Antimicrobial resistance increasingly poses a challenge to public health worldwide. When antibiotics are used, for example in a hospital or a production animal facility, this can assist the spread of resistant bacteria. It is becoming more and more difficult to treat infectious diseases with existing antibiotics. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is holding a forum entitled “The challenge of antimicrobial resistance - a holistic consideration and the latest insights into risk perception” on 22 January 2015. “According to a recent representative survey conducted by the BfR, more than half of the German population believes that antimicrobial resistance is predominantly caused by animal farming”, says Professor Dr Dr Andreas Hensel. “However, resistance to antibiotics affects both human and veterinary medicine and is also a concern in agriculture. The challenges can only be overcome through a joint effort.” The goal must be to limit the therapeutic use of antibiotics to an absolute minimum in hospitals, in the general population, and in animal farming. The event will take place in room Berlin 1 in Hall 7 at Messe Berlin (Entrance Service Center Hall 7), on 22 January 2015 from 12 to 2pm.
On the occasion of the BfR forum held within the framework of the International Green Week in Berlin, scientists will give short presentations with subsequent discussions about antimicrobial resistance in production animals and foods and their relevance for humans. In particular, inward and outward pathways of antimicrobial resistance in production animals will be described and the experts will explain which resistant germs from this source actually end up in hospitals. Measures to curtail resistance to antibiotics will also be presented.
The results of a representative survey on the level of knowledge of the German population on antibiotics and attitudes towards them will also be presented. The focus here will be on the question, among others, whether antimicrobial resistance is perceived as a risk and whether people tend to attribute the causes to human behaviour or animal farming.
The relevance that antimicrobial resistance occurring in animal production facilities has for resistance found in human medicine varies depending on the type of bacteria and resistance. For example, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from production animal populations play an insignificant role as pathogens of difficult-to-treat infections in humans. Resistance in ESBL-forming bacteria, which is a concern both in human and veterinary medicine, poses a more serious problem than MRSA; ESBL stands for “extended-spectrum ß-lactamase”. The question to what extent animal farming contributes to the problem of resistance in human medicine is currently being investigated.
The BfR welcomes the concept of a reduction in antibiotics in animal production as developed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The institute recommends that the use of antibiotics in animal production, especially antibiotics that have a high relevance for human medicine, is critically reviewed. The conditions and management of animal populations should be improved in such a way that the animals stay healthy so that treatment with antibiotics is not necessary. Slaughtering methods should be further developed that minimise the contamination of foods with germs from animals. The BfR recommends that consumers only eat meat that has been thoroughly cooked and that the rules of kitchen hygiene are always applied to prevent contaminating other foods with germs from animal products. The BfR has published a two-minute film on the subject of kitchen hygiene. It is entitled “What to do with the chicken in the kitchen?”
About the BfR
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.