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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Monitoring of antimicrobial resistance of bacteria for a better health of animals in Tunisia

PI: Lilia Messadi (, Ecole nationale de médecine vétérinaire de Sidi Thabet
U.S. Partner: Charlene Jackson, U.S. National Poultry Research Center
Dates: January 2019 - December 2021

Project Overview:

International organizations such as the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization consider antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a major risk for human, animal, and environmental health. Therapeutic failures are witnessed, with an increasing risk of moving towards a "post-antibiotic era" where common infections could kill humans and animals. Scientists have predicted that by 2050, more than 10 million people could die each year because of AMR. A very recent study shows that between 2000 and 2015, Tunisia ranked as the world's second highest country for consumption of antibiotics, which is very worrying because there is a direct relationship between antibiotic consumption and AMR. Tunisia does not yet have a national strategy for monitoring the AMR of bacteria isolated from animals. Some preliminary studies have been conducted on a few bacterial species, mainly targeting commensal bacteria of healthy animals. It appears that the observed AMR is important in some animal species, especially among poultry, with a risk of transfer of resistance genes or resistant bacteria to consumers and to people in contact with pets or livestock.

The objective of this project is to survey AMR of bacteria at the animal/human/environment interface by targeting animals, food of animal origin, and pests (rats and cockroaches), according to the "One Health" concept. The epidemiological study of resistance and the identification of risk factors in husbandry practices and in veterinary use of antibiotics should results in suggested corrective measures to reduce AMR. For livestock, the team will focus primarily on smallholder farmers with limited income, to provide them with added value through health education messages in order to improve hygiene and prevent infectious diseases of animals. These livestock promotion measures are in line with USAID's development goals. They will target women as much as possible because they are often involved in small farms and are more receptive to educational messages on hygiene. The USG-supported partners will assist by developing laboratory methods for the monitoring of AMR and characterization of resistance genes, and also for training and education programs. Practical training of laboratory technicians and students will improve monitoring methods. Workshops and seminars for students and veterinarians will improve the use of antibiotics to reduce the frequency of resistant bacteria. Consequently, the trained students will be able to develop sensitization messages for breeders and in particular women, who are generally more concerned about hygiene measures. One of the main difficulties would be to convince veterinarians to change their practices regarding antibiotics. The main results of the study will be sent to the decision makers of the Ministry of Agriculture to enable the establishment of a national strategy to fight against this threat.

Summary of Recent Activities

During this quarter, the PEER team were unable to carry out any project activities due to the Covid-19.

During the next 3-6 months, they will carry out laboratory analyzes, continuing the study of the antimicrobial resistance of bacteria (Escherichia coli) isolated from various animal species from small or large farms. They will start the molecular characterization of resistant bacteria to determine the genes responsible for antimicrobial resistance. They will organize a training day for veterinary students on the serious problem of antimicrobial resistance. Later, laboratory staff will receive training on the procedure for performing the antibiogram.

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