Finnish broilers have the lowest levels of ESBL among EU countries

6.3.2018 09:42

The lowest prevalence of antibiotic resistant ESBL producing bacteria among EU countries in 2016 was found in Finland in broilers and in domestic broiler meat. According to a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the antibiotic resistance in bacteria transmitted from animals to humans remained common in 2016.

The annually published report of the EFSA and ECDC contains antibiotic resistance data on humans, animals and food. In 2016, the monitoring of bacteria isolated from animals and foodstuffs focused especially on poultry and poultry meat.

ESBL prevalence varies significantly between countries

Significant variation was found among EU countries in the prevalence of E. coli bacteria producing ESBL* or other ESBL-type enzymes, such as AmpC. The average prevalence was 47 per cent in samples taken from broiler chickens and 57 per cent in samples taken from broiler meat. The corresponding figures in Finland were lower: 14 and 22 percent, respectively. In most EU countries, the prevalence of classical ESBL bacteria was higher than the prevalence of AmpC bacteria. The percentage levels of classical ESBL bacteria found in Finland were the lowest of all EU countries: 4 per cent in broiler and 5 per cent in broiler meat.

In 2016, the same method was used to monitor the prevalence of ESBL is all the countries covered by the report. An Escherichia coli bacterium with particularly high resistance to carbapenems was discovered during the monitoring in two EU countries, Romania and Cyprus. This is a worrying discovery as carbapenems are used in humans to treat serious infections and they are not authorised for use in animals.

Low levels of colistin resistance

Only low-level colistin resistance was found in the EU in 2016: 2 per cent in salmonella and E. coli in poultry. No colistin resistance was found in Finland.

Colistin is an antibiotic which is considered a last resort in the treatment of infections in humans caused by certain multi-drug resistant bacteria. Since 2015, colistin resistance genes that are transferable between bacteria has been detected in many countries. Their fast spreading is causing concern globally. Unlike in other EU countries, colistin is not used in Finland in the treatment of animals.

Compared to the average level among EU countries, the antibiotic resistance of campylobacteria isolated from broilers has remained low in Finland. The resistance levels of indicator bacteria isolated from healthy animals were also low in Finland. Indicator bacteria do not usually cause diseases to animals or humans. Their resistance is nevertheless monitored because it describes the use of antibiotics at country-level. Furthermore, indicator bacteria may transfer from animals to humans and store resistance factors for disease-causing bacteria.

*ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase) enzymes cut up effectively some of the most commonly used antibiotics, such as third-generation cephalosporins and usually also penicillins and first- and second-generation cephalosporins.

Read more:
EFSA press release
EFSA-ECDC 2016 report in full 
Further information on resistance to carbapenems (National Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish)
ESBL FAQ (Evira)
What is ESBL? (National Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish)

For further information, please contact:
Anna-Liisa Myllyniemi, Professor, Head of Microbiology Research Unit, Tel. +358 400 287 398
Suvi Nykäsenoja, Senior Researcher, Tel. +358 40 489 3447


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