UK -The National Pharmacy Association (NPA), UK has welcomed a new £19.2 million ( USD 26697580.80) funding for a cross-Government surveillance programme to improve the detection and tracking of foodborne and antimicrobial resistant (AMR) pathogens through the agri-food system.

The £19.2m, awarded through the Treasury’s Shared Outcomes Fund, will support a three-year project to develop a pilot national surveillance network. The project will use the latest DNA-sequencing technology and environmental sampling to enhance the detection and tracking of foodborne and antimicrobial resistant pathogens through the entire agri-food system from farm to fork.

The Pathogen Surveillance in Agriculture, Food and the Environment (PATH-SAFE) project brings together the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and the Environment Agency to test the application of genomic technologies in the surveillance of foodborne pathogens and AMR microbes in all four nations of the UK.

A new database will green light the analysis, storage and sharing of pathogen sequence and source data, collected from various locations across the UK by both government and public organisations.

Professor Robin May, FSA Chief Scientific Adviser, said foodborne diseases in the UK are estimated to cause around 2.4 million cases of illness a year, costing society over £9bn (USD 12,514,491,000) per year.

“This project is designed to help safeguard UK food, agriculture and consumers by using cutting edge technology to understand how pathogens and AMR spread. Tracking the source of these issues will ultimately help us to develop better control strategies to reduce illness and deaths,” he explained..

One of the things believed to be causing AMR is over-vaccination of livestock on the farm.Chief Scientific Adviser for Defra, Professor Gideon Henderson, informed that the UK sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals have halved in the last six years.  This vital new project is anticipated to build on that progress, and ensure antibiotics continue to remain effective for both people and animals.

The UK Special Envoy on AMR, Dame Sally Davies, shared that the new project which builds on the progress made at the G7 meetings this year, will help identify how pathogens and AMR spread, through analyzing food, environment and health factors. Through this joined-up approach the government will be able to take decisive action to save thousands of lives every year.

NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale welcomed the project, saying ,

“We hope it will build on the significant progress already made with regard to the responsible use of antibiotics in the pig sector, and avail the opportunity to utilise data in a way that could help improve the health of our national pig herd.” 

The project takes a One Health approach, which is important because a challenge such as AMR should be considered in a multi-dimensional way.