Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Better data on the occurrence of resistant bacteria in Europe

Thursday 11 Aug 16


Rene S. Hendriksen
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 88

National reference laboratories in EU’s member states have improved their ability to determine the occurrence of resistance in different bacterial species. The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, has contributed to this development through its role as European Union Reference Laboratory for antimicrobial resistance in foodborne bacteria – a role which the institute has held for 10 years. The Institute's expertise has also helped to shape legislation aimed at harmonizing the monitoring and reporting of resistance in Europe.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats to human health according to the World Health Organization, WHO. In order to effectively combat resistant bacteria it is necessary to know where they are found and from where they originate. However, in order to be able to compare data on the occurrence of resistant bacteria across borders, it is essential that all countries analyze samples correctly and consistently.

For 10 years the National Food Institute has been the European Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance, EURL-AR, in foodborne bacteria. It is the role of a reference laboratory to ensure that the National Reference Laboratories, NRLs, in the EU carry out uniform, high-quality testing.

Uniform analyses

The National Food Institute has over the years trained NRLs in EU’s member states in how to use the latest analytical methods and diagnostic techniques to determine the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance – both during annual workshops and training courses in Denmark and via e-learning. Representatives from laboratories outside the EU as well as observers from various institutions with an interest in antimicrobial resistance also take turns participating in the annual workshops.

The EURL-AR furthermore conducts a ring test twice a year in which all laboratories are asked to analyze the same bacterial strains for the presence of resistance before sending the results to Denmark. In the most recent ring tests the laboratories are also sent samples of meat and cecum from different animals from which they have to isolate and propagate bacteria in the samples as well as determine the presence of resistant bacteria that are of particular concern, such as ESBL and AmpC-producing E. coli.

Reports from the various ring tests show that the laboratories have improved their ability to analyze the samples over time and that today the majority can correctly identify most of the resistant bacteria.

More comparable data

In 2013 the EU introduced new legislation for the monitoring and reporting of antimicrobial resistance. The National Food Institute has assisted in the drafting of this legislation, which harmonizes the way the EU member states collect, analyze and report on bacterial samples and the detection of resistance. The aim is to make the data that laboratories submit to the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, entirely comparable.

Institutions such as EFSA, the European Commission and the European Medicines Agency also draw on the National Food Institute’s resistance experts in order to collect data from Europe or the rest of the world fx when new resistant genes are found. Based on the collected data, which can illustrate the scale of the problem, the institute’s researchers can recommend the best way to tackle the problem.

Read more 

The National Food Institute’s role as reference laboratory is described in further detail on the EURL-AR website. Reports from various ring tests, as well as protocols and other resources are also available from the website.

Please also read about Denmark’s experience in reducing the use of antimicrobial agents as well as antimicrobial resistance on the National Food Institute’s special topic portalabout antimicrobial resistance.
16 APRIL 2021