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Small Percentage of Campylobacter in Canadian Chicken Antibiotic-Resistant

A small percentage of Campylobacter isolated from Canadian retail chicken meat is resistant to a key antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections in humans, according to a report by the Public Health Agency of Canada published in the July edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The report tracked resistance to ciprofloxacin in Campylobacter from chicken meat between 2003 and 2010 across seven Canadian provinces, finding the most notable rates of resistance in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Among the years with available data, resistance ranged from roughly 4 percent to 29 percent in British Columbia, and 2 percent to 15 percent in Saskatchewan. Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime provinces did not see more than a 4 percent resistance rate, other than the rate of 14 percent noted in Quebec in 2007.

The highest rate of resistance was found in British Columbia in 2009, when 22 out of 77 (29 percent) Campylobacter samples were resistant to ciprofloxacin. Saskatchewan also saw its highest rate of resistance, 7 out of 48 (15 percent), that year.

Ciprofloxacin is the most common drug used to treat Campylobacter infection in Canada, where an average of 31 in 100,000 people are sickened by the gastrointestinal bacteria each year, falling ill with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. The World Health Organization considers fluoroquinolones such as ciprofloxacin critically important to human medicine.

Many public health professionals hypothesize that antimicrobial drug use on farm animals, including among broiler chickens, has contributed to rising levels of antibiotic resistance in some pathogens, though data on such drug use is not made available by chicken growers in Canada. The U.S. banned fluoroquinolone use on chickens in 2005, though ciprofloxacin resistance in Campylobacter in the U.S. has not seemed to drop as a result, according to the report’s authors.

According to the report, the Canadian chicken industry is working with the country’s government to create a farm surveillance program that would collect data on drug use and resistance.

Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate discourages non-therapeutic use of Category I antibiotics (including ciprofloxacin) in food-producing animals.

This report follows a study earlier this month declaring ciprofloxacin-resistant Salmonella a rare but “growing concern” in Canada, and another out of Europe and Africa that found rising levels of resistant Salmonella in North Africa and the Middle East.

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