Superbug threat looming on live food supply sources

An investigation into antibiotic use and drug resistance in livestock and farmed fish will be headed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to prevent the spread of superbugs.

The department will be looking to the private sector for experts who are able to review the current surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance, after the federal government was warned that it was not being proactive enough in preventing the spread of superbugs, The Australian reports.

Superbugs, which are antibiotic resistant organisms, have the potential to develop into dangerous infectious diseases and related healthcare issues. A number of confirmed cases of superbugs have been reported in European and American food supply sources, as well as in a number of developing nations.

Infectious disease expert, Peter Collignon from the Australian National University said Australia needs to act quickly to ensure that the superbugs do not spread to Australia.

Collignon says that the most likely route for the superbug to enter Australia is through imported seafood – an area which has already caused problems for other countries.

"We need to set up a system that routinely tests for antibiotic resistance and makes that information public," he said.

"While we've got good controls at the moment, we need to toughen them up so we don't have people getting antibiotic resistant superbugs through their food."

In June this year, a Senate committee recommended the establishment of an independent body for disease control to the government which would require mandatory reporting of antibiotic use in agriculture and a surveillance system that reports data from primary industry sector to the health sector.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that a response to the Senate committee report is currently being prepared and will include a comprehensive strategy to address the concerns related to superbugs.

"The strategy will provide a co-ordinated response across all sectors and will target efforts and resources to identified priorities for action," the spokesperson told The Australian.

The report is expected to be completed by mid next year.


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