Antimicrobial Resistance Working Group meeting 17 December 2014

Last updated:
9 March 2015
Summary of the 6th meeting of the group

Update on MRSA in the food chain

The group was updated on current issues relating to MRSA in the food chain. Members were reminded that since the last update they received on the incident of LA-MRSA in turkeys on a farm in East Anglia, MRSA had been identified in a piglet in Northern Ireland. The piglet was one of a group of five post weaning animals examined by the Omagh disease surveillance laboratory of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in May 2014. Findings had been reported in the Veterinary Record. It was noted that from International literature reports of occurrence of LA-MRSA in food animals and farmer workers (workers in the pig industry) were not uncommon in Europe but the finding of MRSA in the food chain the UK was new.

Members were informed that Defra Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination (DARC) Group has been monitoring the issue of MRSA in the food chain. At their recent surveillance meeting they considered the potential contribution of LA-MRSA to human infection in the UK was unclear as was the finding in a recent German study which also concluded that the role of food in transmission was likely to be of minor importance. The DARC surveillance group are currently considering future surveillance options in relation to LA-MRSA with potential options being people who are in contact with animals (farmers, farm workers and practising veterinarians) as they were more likely to be sensitive markers on whether LA-MRSA is transferred to people.

The group was informed that a study has been carried out in the United States on the Quantitative assessment of human MRSA risks from swine (published by the Society for Risk Analysis) and it was proposed that it would be useful for members to see this study and consider the risks in relation to the different exposures.

The group noted the contrast in approach in MRSA monitoring in the food production world and the hospital world. There was discussion on the role whole genome sequencing might play in revealing the direction of travel of MRSA.

Members deliberated on the need for the present quantitative risk assessment on MRSA in the food chain at the EU level to be updated by the appropriate authority in light of the new reports.

Literature review of AMR

As there is no recent broad-based literature review on the role of food in relation to AMR and there are significant knowledge gaps in what contribution food makes to the problem of AMR, the Food Standards Agency is considering commissioning a formal broad-based systematic / extensive literature review on the contribution food makes to the problem of AMR in humans. The group commented on this proposal, and suggested that such a review should follow on from the 1999 ACMSF report and in particular should incorporate recent findings from countries outside the UK.

Review on AMR (Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations)

Members discussed the above paper published in December 2014 by the group set up by the Prime Minister in July 2014 to Review Antimicrobial Resistance. The group led by Economist Jim O’Neill includes experts from science, finance, industry and global health to consider economic issues surrounding AMR. Members considered issues in the paper relating to the food chain. The Jim O’Neill led group is approaching the issues surrounding AMR from an economic perspective and as such their work is aimed at a different audience. Members welcomed the attention being drawn to AMR.

House of Commons Science and Technology report: Ensuring access to working antimicrobials first report of session 2014-15

Members commented on the above report (published in July 2014) drawn to their attention at an earlier meeting. The Government’s response to this report was published in September 2014[1].

Of note is that some of the remarks in the report were not a true reflection of how antibiotics are used on farms. Members concluded their discussion by highlighting the need for the veterinary regulatory authority to improve the evidence base in relation antibiotics usage and AMR monitoring in farms. Group to liaise with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate on this.

Anti-Microbial Resistance: Setting the Social Science Agenda (report of an ESRC Working Group)

Members discussed The Economic and Social Research Council report on AMR (setting the Social Science Agenda). It was noted that paper was a good overview of ongoing AMR activities which highlighted nothing new.


Members discussed its workplan for 2015 and agreed to include Environmental Reservoirs for Antimicrobial Resistance in its work programme.