Resistant germs - a global problem

Resistant bacteria on foods and the resultant diseases in humans are an urgent issue for science in times of global goods flows. For this reason, animal health, food safety and the One Health approach were the focus of a kick-off workshop in which the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) participated in Berlin from 23 to 25 January 2019. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to the tune of seven million euros will run for five years and will be implemented in sub-Saharan Africa. "Global problems such as antimicrobial resistance and foodborne diseases pay no heed to national frontiers," says BfR President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "We need international scientific cooperation in order to develop solution strategies".

At the beginning of the workshop, Parliamentary Secretary of State Dr. Maria Flachsbarth (BMZ) delivered a welcoming speech which was followed by Dr. Juliet Sentumbwe of the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. After short presentations by representatives of the project partners, Professor Dr. Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), emphasised the significance of the project.

Link to press release 08/2018:

The foundations of the project, which was approved in November 2018, were laid in the spring of 2018 when ten scientists from the BfR, the Freie Universität (FU) Berlin and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) participated in a workshop organised by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The goal was to strengthen research cooperation between the ILRI and the German institutions, exchange the results of research activities and jointly develop new projects. The BfR was involved in working groups on institutional cooperation, antimicrobial resistance and parasitic foodborne zoonoses.

The main focus of the overall project are the strengthening of veterinary services, promotion of agricultural research (livestock farming), improving the safety and quality of animal products and support of global campaigns to combat animal diseases. The project considers the One Health approach, which describes the complex connections between humans, animals, the environment and health and which requires the close cooperation of the professional groups involved in the public health and the veterinary system. The detailed planning of the individual work packages for the entire project period was undertaken in several working groups of the workshop. Work packages 1 and 2 deal with sheep and goat plague and Rift Valley fever.

The BfR is involved in work packages 3 and 4. Work package 3 deals with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in chicken farming in Uganda. The factors that influence resistance are to be examined here along with their significance for the contamination of food with resistant bacteria. The goal is to develop a surveillance system for antimicrobial use and resistance as well as the contamination of foods with resistant bacteria in order to recognise and reduce the risks to human health. An essential aspect is to train specialised personnel in Africa and provide the authorities with a long-term support in the build-up of the necessary structures.

The focus of work package 4 is the improvement of the microbiological safety of foods of animal origin at the time of slaughter. Approximately 70% of foods of animal origin are sold in Uganda at so-called informal markets. These markets are important for ensuring the food supply and providing jobs. Food monitoring personnel will be trained on-site and, laboratory methods will be tested for their suitability, and applied accordingly.

Apart from the BfR, the following institutions and organisations participated in the project workshop: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Uganda National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLiRRi), Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Freie Universität Berlin, Friedrich Loeffler Institute (FLI) and Tierärzte ohne Grenzen (Veterinarians without borders) e.V. (VSF-Germany).

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent 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.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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