Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Denmark leads the way in the battle against antimicrobial resistance

Wednesday 30 Jul 14
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Denmark has shown that it is possible to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance in a way that allows farmers to produce meat efficiently, while ensuring that antibiotics still work when sick people need treatment. An American article in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives focuses on how researchers at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, in cooperation with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and industry have contributed to Denmark's systematic and scientific approach to combating antimicrobial resistance.

Ever since penicillin was invented, antibiotics have been doctors’ main weapon in the fight against bacterial infections in both humans and animals. However, penicillin and other types of antibiotics can by repeated use in humans and animals lose their effectiveness because the bacteria develop resistance to the drugs, which can make it harder - or impossible - to treat infections. WHO has declared antimicrobial resistance to be one of the main threats to human health.

Denmark’s scientific approach

Over the past two decades Denmark has worked determinedly to control agricultural use of antimicrobials to ward off problems with the development of resistant bacteria.

In an article in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives written by an American science journalist, director of the National Food Institute Jørgen Schlundt explains that the efforts have been successful because they are based on a solid scientific foundation and bold policy action. The Danish ban on the use of antimicrobial growth promoters in the rearing of food-producing animals, which was introduced in the 1990s, and the rules for the use of antimicrobials in livestock are based on research results and monitoring data. The ban on growth promoters was – precisely because of the solid data – introduced in all of the European Union in 2006.
  

International rules necessary

The article also highlights the National Food Institute's research, which demonstrates the need to have international standards for the use of antimicrobials in food production. Otherwise problems with resistance in one country can create problems beyond its borders.

For example, ESBL bacteria that are resistant to the antimicrobial agents cephalosporins, have been found in chickens reared in Denmark, where the drug is not used. The resistant bacteria have been traced back through two generations to poultry that was imported from abroad. These grandparent birds were treated with cephalosporins in early life while abroad and the bacteria that developed resistance were then passed down from generation to generation.

Read more

See the article, which has been published in the publication Environmental Health Perspectives: Reduced antibiotic use in livestock. How Denmark tackled resistance .

Also read the National Food Institute’s press releases from June 30, 2014: Danish efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance inspire in the U.S. Congress, from March 26, 2014: Danish effort to combat antimicrobial resistance mapped out, and from March 27, 2012: Denmark is at the forefront in the fight against resistance.