Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Danish inspiration in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance

Wednesday 13 May 15


Frank Møller Aarestrup
Professor, Head of Division
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 81

It is possible to significantly reduce the use of antimicrobial agents in food production without compromising welfare and production. This is evidenced by the Danish experience. Denmark's systematic and scientific approach to combating antimicrobial resistance in food is presented by Professor Frank Møller Aarestrup from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, in an overview article in a special theme issue of Philosophical Transactions B of the Royal Society on antimicrobial resistance. Frank Møller Aarestrup has just been made a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog.

The ability to treat bacterial infections in both humans and animals with antimicrobial agents is one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century. The problem is that antimicrobial agents through repeated use can lose their effectiveness as bacteria develop resistance to these agents. This can make it difficult - or impossible - to treat infections.

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem and renders newly developed antimicrobial agents ineffective after 10-20 years. It is unlikely that the industry can develop new alternatives fast enough as replacements. Therefore, the great challenge is to either find alternative ways to fight the bacteria or to find ways to delay the development of resistance.

Denmark's systematic and scientific approach

In order to avert problems with the development of resistant bacteria Denmark has for the last two decades worked scientifically and systematically to control agricultural use of antimicrobial agents.

In a special theme issue on antibiotic resistance, published by the world's oldest scientific journal Philosophical Transactions B, Professor Frank Møller Aarestrup from the National Food Institute describes the effect of the Danish measures. He presents Danish data, which indicate that the reduction in use of antimicrobial agents in the rearing of pigs and poultry has not led to a loss of production. The article also highlights research from the National Food Institute among others, which has provided knowledge of how resistance is developed and transferred.

Global problem requires a global solution

Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem as resistance in one country can cause problems outside its borders. Strengthened cooperation across sectors and borders–not only among scientists but also between authorities–is therefore needed.

There is also a need for better and harmonized global monitoring of antimicrobial use and resistance in line with the Danish monitoring programme DANMAP. Monitoring data will both increase knowledge of the extent of the resistance problem and make it possible to assess the impact of interventions as well as the burden of disease caused by resistant bacteria.

Knight of the Order of Dannebrog

Frank Møller Aarestrup was in May 2015 made a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog for his many years of work to establish global monitoring and control of antimicrobial resistance. He has been one of the key drivers in establishing both national and global monitoring systems and control of antimicrobial resistance. He is currently head of both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the EU reference laboratories for antimicrobial resistance.

Read more

See the article, which is published in Philosophical Transactions B: The livestock reservoir for antimicrobial resistance: a personal view on changing patterns of risk, effects of interventions and the way forward.

Also read the National Food Institute's press release from 26 March 2014: Danish effort to combat antimicrobial resistance mapped out. On the institute's website you can also find the yearly DANMAP reports, which describe the use of antimicrobials and the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria in animals, people and foods in Denmark.
13 APRIL 2021