About Campylobacter

From the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of campylobacter and other foodborne illness outbreaks.

Chapter 9

Antimicrobial Resistance in Campylobacter Bacteria

Campylobacter bacteria are resistant to some classes of antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria is an emerging and increasing threat to human health. [1, 4]

Physicians are increasingly aware that antimicrobial resistance is increasing in foodborne pathogens and that, as a result, patients who are prescribed antibiotics are at increased risk for acquiring antimicrobial-resistant foodborne infections. [1] Indeed, “increased frequency of treatment failures for acute illness and increased severity of infection may be manifested by prolonged duration of illness, increased frequency of bloodstream infections, increased hospitalization or increased mortality.” [3]

The use of antimicrobial agents in the feed of food animals is estimated by the FDA to be over 100 million pounds per year. [4] Estimates range from 36% to 70% of all antibiotics produced in the United States are used in a food animal feed or in prophylactic treatment to prevent animal disease. [3, 4, 18] In 2002, the Minnesota Medical Association published an article by David Wallinga, M.D., M.P.H. who wrote:

According to the [Union of Concerned Scientists], 70 percent of all the antimicrobials used in the United States for all purposes—or about 24.6 million pounds annually—are fed to poultry, swine, and beef cattle for nontherapeutic purposes, in the absence of disease. Over half are “medically important” antimicrobials; identical or so closely related to human medicines that resistance to the animal drug can confer resistance to the similar human drug. Penicillin, tetracycline, macrolides, streptogramins, and sulfonamides are prominent examples. [33]

Moreover, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) has reported that Campylobacter has been recovered from 47% of chicken breasts tested in recent studies. [34] According to the report of findings:

Antimicrobial resistance among these foodborne bacteria is not uncommon and often associated with the use of antimicrobial agents in food animals. Retail food represents a point of exposure close to the consumer, and when combined with data from slaughter plants and on-farm studies, may provide an indication of the prevalence of resistance in foodborne pathogens. [34].

By way of further example, especially given that Salmonella is so often found co-present with Campylobacter in raw poultry, Ceftriaxone-resistant Salmonella has also been reported. [18] As such, the emergence of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium in the United States is another example of a drug-resistant bacteria spreading from animals to humans. [19]

The use of antibiotics in feed for food animals, on animals prophylactically to prevent disease, and the use of antibiotics in humans unnecessarily must be reduced. [1, 25] European countries have reduced the use of antibiotics in animal feed and have seen a corresponding reduction in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans. [1, 4]

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Treatment for Campylobacter infection

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The Economic Impact of Campylobacter Infections

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