UK – In a reassuring revelation, a recent surveillance study conducted by the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has demonstrated that the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Escherichia coli found on retail beef and pork meat samples in the UK remains relatively low.

The study sheds light on the current state of AMR in meat products, providing insights into the persistence of this concerning issue.

Between October and December 2021, the APHA collected a total of 105 samples each of fresh beef and pork meat from diverse retail locations across the UK.

These samples were subjected to rigorous analysis to assess the prevalence of AMR. Notably, the study involved a reduced number of samples in comparison to previous years due to Brexit-related delays and reduced lab capacity.

The isolated E. coli strains from the samples underwent in-depth screening to determine their susceptibility to a panel of antimicrobials.

The AMR phenotype, characterized by resistance patterns to antimicrobials, was meticulously determined using advanced techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) analyses.

This allowed researchers to pinpoint the specific AMR enzymes produced by the E. coli strains.

Encouraging results

The study’s results presented a positive picture, with a low prevalence of AMR among E. coli in both beef and pork samples.

Less than 1 percent of beef samples and less than 4 percent of pork samples were found to possess E. coli strains expressing AMR enzymes such as ESBL (extended-spectrum beta-lactamase) or AmpC.

Furthermore, none of the meat samples exhibited E. coli counts with AmpC or ESBL phenotypes exceeding EU detection levels before enrichment, indicating a low bacterial load on the meat samples.

The study’s findings not only provide a snapshot of the current situation but also offer valuable insights into trends over the years.

Comparisons with surveillance data from 2015, 2017, and 2019 showed that the prevalence of AMR in E. coli has remained consistently low, demonstrating minimal variation over time.

Additionally, the noteworthy absence of carbapenem-resistant E. coli strains over a seven-year period of surveillance is a significant indicator of the stable nature of the situation.

Benchmark for success

In a broader context, the results of the UK’s surveillance efforts place the prevalence of resistant E. coli strains well below the average prevalence observed across all 28 EU member states combined.

The findings underscore the effectiveness of ongoing monitoring and control measures in maintaining a favorable environment in the UK’s meat industry, fostering consumer confidence in the safety and quality of the products available.

As the global battle against antimicrobial resistance continues, the UK’s diligent efforts in monitoring, analysis, and containment provide a beacon of hope for other nations striving to tackle this pressing issue.

The study’s success not only affirms the effectiveness of current strategies but also encourages continued vigilance in safeguarding both public health and the integrity of the food supply chain.

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