Salmonella and Campylobacter increasingly resistant to antibiotics


Salmonella and Campylobacter, the most common pathogens as a cause of toxins, are increasingly resistant to antibiotics commonly used in human and animal therapies.

The scenario is described by the Report published on 9.4.21 by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA ). (1) A summary document of the main results of the harmonized monitoring of antimicrobial resistance 2018/2019 in the main categories of animals (and their products) destined for the agri-food chain and in humans.

Antibiotic resistance, two strains critical for Salmonella

Data from the 28 EU countries report high rates of ciprofloxacin resistance in humans in a specific type of salmonella known as S. Kentucky (82.1 percent).

Another type of salmonella, S. Enteritidis, is increasingly reported to be resistant to nalidixic acid and/or ciprofloxacin.

Antibiotics to avoid

The two ‘super’ strains of salmonella, typical of farmed birds, have therefore now become particularly resistant to antibiotics in the quinolones and fluoroquinolones category. Medications often prescribed for the treatment of urinary tract and upper respiratory tract infections in humans.

The Italian Medicines Agency (Aifa) has urged physicians to reduce its use to severe cases. This is not only to curb antibiotic resistance, but also because of the unbalanced risk-benefit ratio dictated by recent evidence of serious adverse events (aneurysm and aortic dissection).

Campylobacter without control

The other ‘black beast’ of antibiotic resistance is Campylobacter, the most prevalent pathogen in Europe. Most European countries report its marked resistance to ciprofloxacin (fluoroquinolone). So much so that this antimicrobial is almost no longer prescribed in Campylobacter infections in humans.

Some positive data

On the other hand, among the positive trends, the report shows that salmonella resistance to ampicillin (in 8 countries) and tetracycline (in 11 member states) decreased during 2015-2019.

On another positive note, combined resistance to two key antimicrobials remains low: fluoroquinolones and third-generation cephalosporins in Salmonella and fluoroquinolones and macrolides in Campylobacter. This allows the effective use of such drugs in the treatment of severe Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in humans.

An additional positive finding comes from 9 states for the period 2014-2019: in samples from animals destined for the food chain, the rate of E. coli bacteria responding to all antimicrobials tested has increased.

Antibiotic resistance, the full Report

Annual monitoring of antimicrobial resistance in animals and food within the EU is specifically focused on poultry in 2018 and pigs and calves less than 1 year old in 2019.

The document is available at this link.


European Food Safety Authority, & European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (2021). European Union Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance in Zoonotic and Indicator Bacteria from Humans, Animals and Food in 2018/2019 [Data set]. Zenodo.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".