Research – Monitoring AMR in Campylobacter jejuni from Italy in the last 10 years (2011–2021): Microbiological and WGS data risk assessment

EFSA

Campylobacter jejuni is considered as the main pathogen in human food‐borne outbreaks worldwide. Over the past years, several studies have reported antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in C. jejuni strains. In Europe, the official monitoring of AMR comprises the testing of Campylobacter spp. from food‐producing animals because this microorganism is responsible for human infections and usually predominant in poultry. Food‐producing animals are considered to be a major source of campylobacteriosis through contamination of food products. Concerns are growing due to the current classification of C. jejuni by the WHO as a ‘high priority pathogen’ due to the emergence of resistance to multiple drugs such as those belonging to the fluoroquinolones, macrolides and other classes, which limits the treatment alternatives. Knowledge about the contributions of different food sources to gastrointestinal disease is fundamental to prioritise food safety interventions and to establish proper control strategies. Assessing the genetic diversity among Campylobacter species is essential to the understanding of their epidemiology and population structure. Using a population genetic approach and grouping the isolates into sequence types within different clonal complexes, it is possible to investigate the source of the human cases. The work programme was aimed for the fellow to assess the AMR of C. jejuni isolated from humans, poultry and birds from wild and urban Italian habitats. Given the public health concern represented by resistant pathogens in food‐producing animals and the paucity of data about this topic in Italy, the aim was to identify correlations between phenotypic and genotypic AMR and comparing the origin of the isolates. The work programme allowed the fellow to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies on the web‐based tools used by IZSAM to process the NGS data and perform bioinformatics analyses for the identification of epidemiological clusters, the study of AMR patterns in C. jejuni isolates, and the assessment of the human exposure to such AMR pathogens. Furthermore, the fellow became able to transfer the acquired knowledge through innovative web‐based didactical tools applied to WGS and clustering of specific food‐borne pathogens, with particular reference to C. jejuni. To achieve this objective, 2,734 C. jejuni strains isolated from domestic and wild animals and humans, during the period 2011–2021 were analysed. The resistance phenotypes of the isolates were determined using the microdilution method with EUCAST breakpoints, for the following antibiotics: nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol, erythromycin, gentamicin, streptomycin, tetracycline. The data were complemented by WGS data for each strain, uploaded in the Italian information system for the collection and analysis of complete genome sequence of pathogens isolated from animal, food and environment (GENPAT) developed and maintained at IZSAM; information like clonal complex and sequence type to understand the phylogenetical distance between strains according to their origins were also considered. This work underlines that a better knowledge of the resistance levels of C. jejuni is necessary, and mandatory monitoring of Campylobacter species in the different animal productions is strongly suggested.

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