Scientists in the European Union have found that a high proportion of Campylobacter in humans is resistant to ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic critically important for the treatment of human diseases.

That is a key finding of a report released jointly last week by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) based on 2009 data submitted by 25 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland.

This first EU report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria affecting humans, animals and food will be used by the European Commission in developing new proposals to fight antimicrobial resistance, EFSA officials explained in a news release.

“This information is critical to inform decisions on the control of antimicrobial resistant infections that affect a growing number of people across Europe,” said ECDC director Marc Sprenger in the statement.

Among the report’s findings:

For Humans

Campylobacter:  In humans, high levels of resistance were recorded for ciprofloxacin (47 percent) as well as for resistance to ampicillin (43 percent) and nalidixic acid (40 percent).

Salmonella:  Resistance to common antimicrobials like ampicillin, tetracycline and suphonamide was moderate, with around 20 percent of the tested bacteria considered resistant.

For Animals

Campylobacter:  In chickens, high levels of resistance were seen to ciprofloxacin (46 percent in Campylobacter jejuni and 78 percent in Campylobacter coli,  as well as in pigs (50 percent in Campylobacter coli).

Salmonella: In pigs and pig meats, high levels of resistance were recorded for ampicillin, tetracycline and sulphonamide (47 to 60 percent), in cattle (37 to 40 percent) and in chicken meat (26 to 33 percent).  A moderate level of resistance (around 20 percent) was seen in resistance to ciprofloxacin in chickens and chicken meat.

Non-disease causing E. coli showed high levels of resistance to tetracycline, ampicillin and sulphonaide in pigs and chickens and E. coli was found to be resistant to ciprofloxacin in chicken (47 percent) and in pigs (12 percent). Non-disease-causing E. coli and Enterococci were used to indicate the level of antimicrobial resistance in normal bacterial flora in teh guts of healthy animals.

The report only included data on resistance in E. coli from animals and food, not from humans.

The full report is available here.