Antimicrobial Resistance Working Group meeting 4 December 2015

Last updated:
1 April 2016
Summary of the 10th meeting of the Group

FSA Risk Assessment (Enterobacteriaceae from UK pigs carrying the mcr-1 colistin resistance gene)

The above meeting was a teleconference the purpose of which was to consider the issue of colistin resistance in Salmonella and E. coli in pigs in the UK. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) had drafted a risk assessment paper (Enterobacteriaceae from UK pigs carrying the mcr-1 colistin resistance gene).The subgroup considered the FSA’s assessment of the current level of risk and uncertainty associated with the finding of the mcr-1 gene for colistin resistance in Salmonella Typhimurium var Copenhagen and E. coli in UK pigs via three questions.

The public health significance and level of risk associated with the finding of the mcr-1 colistin resistance gene in UK pigs

Whilst supporting the FSA’s current risk assessment, the group agreed that the finding of the mcr-1 colistin resistance gene in UK pigs was an undesirable development and posed an increased risk to those who would need colistin for treatment. The subgroup highlighted the need for wider discussion concerning the use of colistin in the light of the recent findings. It was noted that European Medicines Agency are expected to meet soon to discuss the issue of colistin in the food chain.

What further work might be needed regarding the risk associated with the food chain

The subgroup welcomed what was being done by Public Health England and Animal and Plant Health Agency in going through their archives to screen isolates and genomes for the mcr-1 gene.  They were also supportive of the FSA including screening of E. coli from retail chicken meat for the mcr-1 gene. This work would begin in January 2016 as an add on to surveillance of retail meat as part of EU antimicrobial resistance monitoring.  The FSA was encouraged to liaise with other Member States (MSs) to see how they are dealing with the issue of colistin resistance as it was highlighted that little colistin is used in the UK compared to other MSs. The subgroup also suggested that consideration could be given to undertaking a survey on the use of colistin in pigs in the UK with the aim of identifying relevant reservoirs of the mcr-1 gene.

Potential interventions and their impact on the risk associated with the food chain

The group agreed that the current risk assessment also makes reference to well established food hygiene advice in helping to control microbiological risks. Members recognised the importance of good hygiene practices in reducing microbiological risks through the food chain including during meat production and in the handling and cooking of meat in the kitchen.   The FSA was encouraged to reinforce current advice for slaughterhouses and kitchen practices etc.  Livestock keepers' and their veterinarians' attention is drawn to the European Commission’s recently published guidelines on prudent use of antimicrobials (Guidelines for the prudent use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine (2015/C 299/04)). Specifically, pig producers and their veterinarians are encouraged to adhere to the Pig Veterinary Society’s prescribing guidelines.