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US build on antibiotic research following Wellcome Trust funding

Grant funding to study the impact of California’s new legislation limiting the use of antimicrobial drugs given to poultry and livestock has been awarded by the Wellcome Trust.

The $3.1m (£2.74m) funding will enable scientists to study the legislation’s effect on foodborne bacterial known to cause infection in humans due to preparation and consumption of all major types of meat, including chicken and turkey,

California’s new law regulating the use of antibiotics in food animals came into force on 1 January. The law is the first in the US to ban uses of antibiotics for routine disease prevention in food animal production. In the US, approximately 70% of antibiotics are sold for use in livestock.

That study – the first of its kind – is testing both retail chicken purchased in southern California and human biological samples for antibiotic resistant E.colI bacteria. Photo: Jan Willam Schouten
That study – the first of its kind – is testing both retail chicken purchased in southern California and human biological samples for antibiotic resistant E.colI bacteria. Photo: Jan Willam Schouten

Overuse of antibiotics

It has been awarded to Lance Price, the director of the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Centre (ARAC). Professor Price, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, said: “Overuse of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance and is a growing threat to human health worldwide.

“Research demonstrates clear links between antimicrobial use in poultry and human antibiotic-resistant infections. The bacteria we are studying, E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, can be found in a substantial percentage of retail meat sold in the US and are frequent causes of human foodborne infections.

“The data we collect will be crucial for establishing the legislation’s impact,” he added.

Tim Jinks, head of Wellcome’s Drug-Resistant Infections Priority Programme, said: “We know that addressing inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans and animals is critical to stopping superbugs. But we need to build deeper global understanding of how these deadly, drug-resistant infections emerge and spread.

“This research will help build the farm-to-table evidence needed on the spread of superbugs from animals to humans through the food chain. Wellcome is committed to utilising surveillance globally to inform both public behaviour and drive policy change needed to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use,” he stressed.

New research

The new research will benefit from and complement work already underway in a project funded by the National Institutes of Health, which is also being carried out by the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

That study – the first of its kind – is testing both retail chicken purchased in southern California and human biological samples for antibiotic resistant E.coli bacteria.

Cindy Liu, associate professor at the Milken Institute and ARAC’s chief medical officer, said: “Wellcome’s funding enables us to extend this study to encompass all major meat types and 2 additional bacteria – Campylobacter and Salmonella – associated with foodborne illnesses and antibiotic infections.

“This is an important expansion of the NIH study that will allow us to more broadly sample the retail meat and poultry available to California consumers and therefore, more effectively study the impact the policy on antibiotic resistant infections in California residents.”

3 comments

  • David Burch

    This really will be exciting research and we will be able to compare US/Californian data with out own EU research. We have been able to show that chicken E. coli infections with 3rd and 4th Generation cephalosporin resistance account for only 0.00023% of human clinical case transmission on a population basis, or 0.23 people/ 100,000 population, which was surprisingly low. Macrolide transmission via Campylobacter was only 0.0005% but fluoroquinolone resistance was 0.0169%. Fluoroquinolone resistance transmission from Salmonella infections was lower at 0.00146%. Fluoroquinolones have been banned in poultry in the US for over a decade, so it will be interesting to compare the results. Regards David Burch

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