Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are found not only in humans, but also in animals, in our food and in the environment. From here, resistant bacteria can spread to humans or other animals. There are several routes through which resistant bacteria can spread. It is important to know exactly how different bacteria are spread, so that we can develop and implement effective measures.

Antimicrobial resistance in livestock farming

Animals with a bacterial infection may need antibiotics. However, like bacteria present in/on human beings, bacteria in animals can also become insensitive to antibiotics. These bacteria can spread through direct contact with humans. This mainly occurs in livestock farming. Compared to other countries, the Netherlands once used a large amount of antibiotics in this sector. Thanks to a range of measures, however, antibiotics use has decreased by around 70% over the past 13 years. As a result, antimicrobial resistance has also decreased in most livestock animals over the years. This is described in the MARAN NethMap 2022 report.

Antimicrobial resistance in food

Bacteria can also spread through food. This includes bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These can spread through raw vegetables, fresh herbs or meat from animals that carry resistant bacteria. That is why it is important to take adequate hygiene measures when preparing, eating and storing food, such as washing your hands.

Antimicrobial resistance in the environment

Resistant bacteria can be found in the environment as well. Since around 2010, there has been research into how often they occur in our water, soil and air. The resistant bacteria mainly come from human sewage and from the manure of livestock and wild animals. This is how resistant bacteria end up in surface water (such as rivers, canals, swimming water and recreational water), the soil (through manure) and the air (e.g. around farms). Humans can be exposed to resistant bacteria in the environment, for example during recreational activities. It is therefore important to monitor how antimicrobial resistance in the environment develops over time. This is relevant for countries outside Europe as well, where water quality may be worse. Sewage can also be used to identify the location and amount of resistant bacteria in the Dutch population. This is referred to as sewage research.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water

The RIVM houses a collaborating centre that supports the WHO in risk assessment of pathogens in food and water (WHO Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water | RIVM).