Archive for February, 2017

RUMA response to FSA review of MRSA risk, published 28 February

RUMA has welcomed the outcome of a risk assessment published today (28 February) from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This assesses the risk associated with the preparation, handling or consumption of foodstuffs which may be contaminated with MRSA, in particular Livestock-Associated (LA) MRSA. It concludes the risk is very low and based on this the FSA’s current advice remains unchanged, i.e. that raw food should be stored appropriately, handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly to ensure any harmful bacteria present are destroyed.

Dr Ian Brown, Oxford Consultant Clinical Research Fellow and member of RUMA’s independent advisory Scientific Group, says the review brings helpful clarification in a number of areas concerning LA-MRSA.

“It highlights that current data suggest LA-MRSA infection is rare in humans in the UK and such organisms are not readily transmitted from person to person. To the FSA’s knowledge, there have been no reported food borne outbreaks of LA-MRSA in humans in either the UK or worldwide,” he says.

“Furthermore, the indication is that prevalence of food contaminated with LA-MRSA is low in the UK. LA-MRSA has been shown to enter the food chain and survive on raw meat up to the point of retail, although thorough heat treatment of raw meat is sufficient to destroy LA-MRSA and other vegetative bacteria.”

Dr Brown says that despite the conclusions and reiteration of advice about storing, handling and cooking food, the farming sector – as part of a One Health approach alongside human medicine – will continue to focus on strategies to reduce use of antibiotics and improve hygiene.

“This will minimise opportunities for resistance to antibiotics to develop or for any resistant or other bacteria to pass to humans,” he adds.

Dr Ian Brown is Consultant Clinical Research Fellow at Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals and Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs

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New report shows scale of antibiotic resistance challenge in EU

An EU-wide report issued this week (22 February) on antimicrobial resistant bacteria found in humans, animals and food indicates that levels of resistance to a range of antibiotics remain high across the continent. It also highlights significant variations between different countries, with those in Northern and Western Europe – including the UK – generally having lower resistance levels than those in Southern and Eastern Europe.

The report, published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), incorporates already-published UK veterinary surveillance data from 2015 and compares them with other countries for the first time.

John FitzGerald of RUMA, the agricultural and food industry alliance which promotes responsible use of medicines in farm animals, welcomed the overview provided by the report and the One Health approach of gathering human, animal and food data together.

“This shows that the work being done to reduce, refine and replace antibiotic use is a priority, and very necessary across both human and veterinary medicine,” he said.

“We hope that the generally lower levels of resistance found in the UK reflect, in part, the responsible use guidelines for farm animals we have had in place through RUMA for the past 20 years. Despite this, the need for further concerted action is clear.”

However, he highlighted that while cutting back on antibiotic use should reduce the risk of resistance occurring, there was not always a direct relationship. “This report found very low levels of resistance to carbapenems in pigs and pig meat, yet carbapenems are neither authorised nor used in food-producing animals. But this doesn’t mean we should lose focus on reductions,” he stressed.

For example, very low levels of bacterial resistance (in 0.6% of isolates tested from fattening pigs) were reported for colistin, a drug of last resort, in the UK. While 2015 UK sales of colistin for food-producing animals were around a tenth of the EU recommended maximum, it is hoped that voluntary restrictions imposed by many sectors at the end of 2015 after resistance to colistin was found in China will have resulted in further reductions for 2016.

“RUMA and the UK livestock industry are in complete agreement with the report authors, that prudent use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine is extremely important in addressing the challenge posed by antimicrobial resistance. We all have a responsibility to ensure that antibiotics keep working,” added Mr FitzGerald.

The UK sales data used in this report were published in November 2016 and confirmed a 10% reduction in UK farm animal use overall in 2015, including a 24% reduction in pig-only products and 10% reduction in sales of products licensed for pig and poultry use.

The RUMA Alliance, which is 20 years old this year and covers every sector and stage of the supply chain in food and farming, has ramped up activities in the last year to help producers reduce use of antibiotics.

This includes the creation of a Targets Task Force that will co-ordinate the different farming sectors as they identify meaningful objectives for refining their use of antibiotics. RUMA has also launched the www.farmantibiotics.org information website to provide factual information on use of antibiotics on-farm.

Independent scientific group launched to underpin RUMA’s fact-based approach

A new Independent Scientific Group set up to advise RUMA has met for the first time.

Its six members covering areas of human and animal medicine have agreed to advise RUMA on technical developments, help maintain a scientific basis in all of RUMA’s work and provide independent expert voices with a One Health perspective on responsible use of medicines in farm animals.

RUMA vice chair Catherine McLaughlin, who also chairs the Group, has welcomed this addition to RUMA’s activities. She says she hopes the move will bring factual evidence and science to a debate around animal medicines – and antibiotic resistance in particular – which can be dominated by biased soundbites and myth.

“The members of the Group are all eminent specialists in their own right in fields related to responsible use of medicines in both human and animal medicine,” she says.

“Between them, they cover a wide range of specialisms and their reason for getting involved is a common desire to encourage balanced debate and prompt the right actions – while ensuring animal welfare is protected.

“We look forward to some really healthy challenges from the group on RUMA’s strategy and scientific position going forward. It’s also very positive that the Group has agreed to act as spokespeople on these issues, putting forward their own findings and views and well as any consensus they develop.”

The Group consists of (alphabetically):

  • Professor David Barrett, Professor of Bovine Medicine, Production and Reproduction at University of Bristol (deputised by Dr Kristen Reyher, Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at University of Bristol);
  • Dr Ian Brown, Consultant Clinical Research Fellow at Oxford University and Oxford University Hospitals and Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Animal Feedstuffs;
  • Mr David Burch, veterinarian and consultant specialising in pig medicine and retired Lecturer in Pig Medicine at Liverpool University’s Veterinary School;
  • Professor Mark Fielder, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Kingston University;
  • Mr Daniel Parker, avian expert for UK government, technical advisor to the British Poultry Council and lecturer at Cambridge University Veterinary School;
  • Mr Martin Smith, Veterinary Senior Manager with AHDB.

The group will meet every three months and convene by conference call in between. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate is an observer with the group.

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