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Assessment and critical evaluation of antibiotic resistance transferability in food chain

Final Report Summary - ACE-ART (Assessment and critical evaluation of antibiotic resistance transferability in food chain)

The ACE-ART project aimed to provide a critical evaluation of the impact of the use of antibiotics in agriculture and in the prophylaxis and treatment of disease in humans on non-pathogenic, food-related, mainly lactic acid, bacteria.

More specifically, the research initiative objectives were to:
1. assess the phenotype of the presence of resistance to antibiotics in a large number of strains, which were selected to represent all possible cases for studying the effects of antibiotics' use in agro-food and humans. The developed protocols were consequently assessed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in order to verify their applicability as quality standards.
2. evaluate the in vivo and in vitro transferability of antibiotic-resistant genes that were observed in the studied bacteria as well as in some strains already characterised as resistant. The initial studies demonstrated that this process had to be applied in each specific case. Nevertheless, the obtained results strongly suggested that transfer into gram-negative pathogens was highly unlikely to occur, while transfer to gram-positive pathogens was possible. Moreover, the stability of the antibiotic resistant traits was evaluated along with the effect of acid and bile on identified gene transfer. The effect on horizontal gene transfer of selective pressure from the presence of antibiotic agents was also assessed, with the results suggesting a promoting effect of the environmental presence of antibiotics on transferability.
3. perform molecular characterisation of the atypical resistance patterns that were observed on specific strains. Three different classes of antibiotic resistance mechanisms, namely natural or intrinsic, mutational and horizontally acquired resistance, were examined. The results supported the position of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that demanded both phenotypic and genetic evaluation of the drug-resistance profiles of strains which applied for EFSA approval.
4. disseminate the project findings. The implemented campaign targeted both the European authorities and the greater public through a series of activities such as publications, open workshops and informative databases.
5. ensure cooperation between scientists and industries developing starter cultures for feed or food fermentation. This goal was related to the fourth objective, and resulted in the organisation of a successful open meeting with the participation of industry representatives from various countries.

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