Animal Contact And Antimicrobial Resistance: What’s The Link?

While it’s impossible to determine how much antimicrobial resistance in humans is attributable to antimicrobial use in animals, there are ways to estimate that number for specific resistant bacteria, like E. coli. Though interesting, care should be taken with the information to not overgeneralize for other bacteria in other geographic ranges — there are still large gaps in the information that has been procured.

Dr. Scott Weese’s Worms and Germs blog focuses on multidrug-resistant E. coli, specifically the E. coli that is resistant to third generation cephalosporins, which are used to treat human infections. This E. coli is also resistant to other microbials. Weese cited a Dutch study that sought to determine how people were being infected with E. Coli outside of a hospital setting.

Weese extrapolated from the study that:

  • People with drug-resistant E. coli most often got it from other people (61 percent), they then acquired it from food, then from animals and then from the environment
  • E. coli is common in sources for which people might not have a lot of exposure, like surface water, but people are more likely to get it from things they come into contact with regularly, like raw vegetables, though the rate of E. coli transmission in these items is actually low. The impact on people varies with the amount of exposure and the handling of potentially contaminated sources.

Companion animals are estimated to be the cause of 7 percent of human E. coli infections, mainly from dogs, which caused 3.9 percent of infections attributed to companion animals. Horses are less likely to transmit E. coli to humans than cats.

The overarching conclusion from this study was that humans are the main source of drug-resistant E. coli acquisition, but non-human sources are still important to recognize and plan for to eliminate antimicrobial resistance worldwide.

Read more at the Worms & Germs blog.

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