Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Robust data an important weapon in fight against antimicrobial resistance

Food, fish and agriculture Bacteria and microorganisms Food safety Food production
Robust data on both antimicrobial use and resistance is a crucial weapon in the fight against resistant bacteria. In Denmark this realization led to the establishment of the monitoring programme DANMAP 20 years ago. Since then it has inspired globally. Most recently, the EU Health Commissioner visited Denmark to take a closer look at the programme, and the American Society for Microbiology has produced a video about the Danish experience. Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, have played a key role in DANMAP from the beginning.

Penicillin and other antimicrobials can through repeated use lose their effectiveness, as bacteria develop resistance to these agents. This can make it difficult - or impossible - to treat infections in both humans and animals. In the EU, antimicrobial resistance leads to about 25,000 deaths annually, according to figures from the EU.

The Danish monitoring system

Researchers, authorities and industry in Denmark have long been aware of the need for decision-makers to have solid data in order to make scientifically based decisions on how to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

In 1995 this realization led to the establishment of the DANMAP programme, which is run by the National Food Institute and the National Veterinary Institute (both under the Technical University of Denmark) and Statens Serum Institute. The programme monitors the use of antimicrobials in humans and animals in Denmark, and the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria in animals, people and foods.

Data from DANMAP has since 1995 contributed to e.g. a ban on the use of antimicrobial growth promoters. DANMAP’s ongoing focus on the use of antimicrobials in food producing animals has also lead to the introduction of the Yellow card scheme, which is the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration’s initiative aimed at herds with a high consumption of antimicrobials.

Farmers have also actively used DANMAP data to voluntarily minimize the use of cephalosporins, which are critically important in the treatment of humans.

Denmark inspires in the EU and the USA

EU’s Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis visited Denmark on 19 May 2016 where he heard about DANMAP among other things. A meeting with researchers from the National Food Institute and Statens Serum Institut gave the commissioner an insight into how the systematic DANMAP monitoring has been used to reduce antimicrobial consumption considerably in the production of food without compromising animal welfare or production.

The researchers also talked about their visions for how the global sharing of national resistance data can be used to tackle resistance problems worldwide.

The American Society for for Microbiology has also produced a video about Denmark’s experiences with DANMAP and some of the trials Danish farmers are conducting to find ways of e.g. producing pigs without the use of antimicrobial agents.

Unless the international community puts up a fight against antimicrobial resistance, the total bill due to illness and death and a subsequent fall in productivity could amount to 100 trillion dollars by 2050. National Food Institute Head of Division Flemming Bager makes this point in the video referring to the British report 'Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations'.

Watch and read more

Watch the video from the American Society for Microbiology on YouTube: Using data for action against antimicrobial resistance (video).

Results from the DANMAP monitoring programme are published annually in a report, which can be downloaded from DANMAP’s website.  Also read the folder about the DANMAP programme: Data for Action (pdf).