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CAHFSE and Antimicrobial Resistant Food-Borne Pathogens

Livestock Update, February 2008

Sabriya K. Jubilee and C. M. Wood, VA Tech

Food-borne pathogens cause illnesses that are an extreme drain on the public health arena in the U. S. and around the world (White et al., 2002; Meng et al., 2002).  There are six pathogens that account for 95% of food-borne illnesses:  Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasma, Norwalk-like viruses, Campylobacter, and E. coli (White et al., 2002).  It has been estimated that foodborne illnesses cause approximately 76,000,000 illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths per year in the U. S. alone (Meng et al., 2002).  Under normal conditions, many of these pathogens are self-limiting, but systemic cases can be more severe, particularly in persons with immunodeficiencies (Meng et al., 2002).  Antimicrobial treatments have been a major component in efforts to prevent and control the development of these illnesses.

In the livestock industry, antimicrobials also serve as growth promotants as well as preventative and therapeutic treatments against animal diseases.  Some antimicrobials have specific pathogenic targets, but generally they are given to control and prevent the spread of any animal diseases (McEwen et al., 2002).  Although antimicrobials serve as an effective method of controlling pathogens, frequent use may cause development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria (White et al., 2002).  Some of these resistant strains may then transmit to humans, causing an array of health concerns.  Therefore, strategies need to be developed and implemented to ensure the health of the human population.

In response to this growing concern, the Collaboration in Animal Health, Food Safety and Epidemiology (CAHFSE) was formed to survey and track pathogens that pose a food safety risk.  It is a combined effort of the United States Department of Agriculture Area Research Service (USDA-ARS), Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS), and Food Safety and Inspection Agency (FSIA).  The intent of CAHFSE is to enhance the understanding of food safety and track pathogens from the farm to the processing plant, beginning with pork.  Researchers have collected and tested fecal samples for Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli on sentinel farms in four states.  Resistance to tetracycline, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, and ampicillin was found (Kraeling et al., 2004).  CAHFSE is also monitoring herd health and management at the farms involved in the program.  The next step is to find the risk factors associated with these resistant bacteria, which in turn could help eradicate food-borne illnesses.

Food-borne illnesses impact public health daily, and can lead to enormous complications and diseases in the human health arena.  Information that can be gathered from programs such as CAHFSE will help determine risk factors for the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, and will help the development of protocols to minimize the spread of food-borne pathogens.  These efforts will help raise consumer confidence and thus help the agricultural food economy.

Kraeling, R. R., E. J. Bush, D. A. Dargatz, N. E. Wineland, S. Ladely, and P. J. Fedorka-Cray. 2004. A USDA multi-agency project: Collaboration in animal health, food safety and epidemiology (CAHFSE). J. Animal Sci. 82(Suppl. 1):125 (Abstr.).

McEwen, S. A., and P. J. Fedorka-Cray. 2002. Antimicrobial Use and Resistance in Animals. Clinical Infectious Diseases 34(Suppl. 3):S93-106.

Meng, J. and M. P. Doyle. 2002. Introduction. Microbiological food safety. Microbes and Infection 4:395-397.

White, D. G., S. Zhao, S. Simjee, D. D. Wagner, and P. F. McDermott. 2002. Antimicrobial resistance of foodborne pathogens.  Microbes and Infection 4:405-412.


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