Pilot Surveillance Program for Antimicrobial Resistance in bacteria of animal origin

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Page last updated: 08 December 2014

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Recommendation 10 of the 1999 Report of the Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR):


"Development of a comprehensive surveillance system for antimicrobial resistant bacteria and resistance genes in humans and animals. The surveillance system should include medical (including nosocomial), food-producing animal and veterinary areas with particular emphasis on the establishment of food-chain and environmental connections."

As a first step in implementing this recommendation the Australian Government has released a Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in Australia. Under the Strategy, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has developed an action plan for antimicrobial resistance surveillance in animals that has a public health focus. A pilot surveillance program is the major element of the action plan. A Technical Reference Group has been formed to advise on implementation of the action plan.

The pilot program is funded by DAFF and will run from November 2003 until July 2004. The focus is on those livestock species where antimicrobials are used in feed or water to a greater extent, and on commensal/indicator organisms that have the potential to be transmitted from animals to humans through the food chain. Caecal samples are being collected from abattoirs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Ten beef and seven pig slaughter establishments have been chosen based on levels of throughput and geographical spread. Feedlot, grass-fed and dairy cattle will be sampled. Poultry processing plants are representative of the major companies from each of the States to account for differences in antimicrobial use regimes between companies and between States. The sampling strategy aims for no more than one isolate per farm or representative group of livestock.

The target number of bacterial isolates to be collected based on an expected prevalence of resistant organisms of <10% is 138 samples per animal species/bacterium combination (95% confidence limit and 5% precision). As not all samples will yield appropriate bacterial isolates, the total number of samples to be collected is 200 each for cattle and pig and 300 for poultry. Equal numbers of samples will be collected every two to three months, ensuring a balance of summer and winter feeding patterns, and accounting for inherent seasonal variations.

Samples will be cultured for E. coli and Enterococcus (cattle, pigs, poultry) and Campylobacter (poultry) at veterinary laboratories in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Sensitivity testing using agar or broth microdilution will be carried out at laboratories in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. Antimicrobials to be tested vary according to the bacterial species. They include antibiotics used in animal husbandry, those closely related human antimicrobials where there is the potential for cross-resistance, and some human antimicrobials not used in food animals in Australia (e.g. vancomycin, ciprofloxacin), but which have gained a public health profile overseas.

Following primary interpretation of the results by the Technical Reference Group, results will be discussed with each industry sector. Wider stakeholder groups will have the opportunity to consider the results, which will then be forwarded to the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (EAGAR) for consideration and reporting as part of the national AMR surveillance dataset.

Please note:

If you would like to obtain a copy of the Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in Australia, please email AMR (AMR@health.gov.au).

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