Countries that have decreased their consumption of antibiotics in both animals and humans have seen a reduction in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a joint report published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The fourth annual multiagency report, the publication centers on the integrated analysis of the consumption of antimicrobial agents and occurrence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in bacteria from humans and food-producing animals.

AMR is a serious threat to public and animal health. It is estimated that, every year, AMR causes the death of more than 35,000 people in the EU/European Economic Area (EEA) and puts a significant burden on European healthcare systems, with an approximate cost of €11.7 billion per year, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Taking a One Health approach, which recognizes the connection between the health of people and animals, the report presents data primarily collected between 2019 and 2021 on antibiotic consumption and AMR in Europe. For the first time as part of the project, the three agencies analyzed trends of antimicrobial consumption and AMR in Escherichia coli from both humans and food-producing animals. They also analyzed trends for the time period of 2014–2021, which saw antibiotic consumption in food-producing animals decrease by 44 percent.

Significantly, the analysis performed by the three agencies found that E. coli in both animals and humans are becoming less resistant to antibiotics as the overall antibiotic consumption is reduced, showing that the concerning trends in AMR can be reversed with the right actions and policies. In general, the report shows that using fewer antibiotics in livestock production pays off. In most countries that reduced antibiotic use, the agencies observed a corresponding decrease in resistance levels.

The report also shows that, in humans, the use of important groups of antibiotics, such as carbapenems, 3rd and 4th -generation cephalosporins, and quinolones, is associated with resistance to these antibiotics in E. coli from humans. Likewise, the use of quinolones, polymyxins, aminopenicillins, and tetracyclines in food-producing animals is associated with resistance to these antibiotics in E. coli isolated from food-producing animals.

Additionally, bacterial resistance in humans may be linked to bacterial resistance in food-producing animals. Two examples highlighted by the report are Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli, which are found in food-producing animals and may spread to people through food.

The statistical code used to perform these analyses has also been made publicly available with the report for the first time. Further analysis by researchers and other interested experts is encouraged.

Based on the results presented in the report, the authoring agencies call for continued efforts to tackle AMR at national, EU, and global levels; harmonized surveillance of antimicrobial consumption and AMR; and targeted studies to further understand the spread of AMR.