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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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International Activities: CVM Receives HHS Award for NARMS Expansion in Mexico

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter July/August 2003 Volume XVIII, No 4

The Center for Veterinary Medicine was recently awarded the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service for establishing a program in Mexico to detect resistance in pathogens that may contaminate food imported to the U.S. and also pose a hazard to U.S. travelers.

The global expansion of food markets has intensified the risk of transmitting infectious agents across borders. The North American Free Trade Agreement promotes agricultural trade between the United States and Mexico, and importation of meat and poultry has increased since its implementation. U.S. consumers as well as U.S. travelers to Mexico are exposed to animals reared under very different laws and conditions relating to antimicrobial drug use in food animals. Antimicrobial usage is known to select for antimicrobial resistance and food animal reservoirs of human pathogens can be subjected to this selection pressure from food animal use. To respond to this public health hazard, the team members developed a system to monitor resistance in enteric pathogens by collaborating with Mexican investigators at four sites within Mexico in areas of high agricultural activity.

The project began in January 2002 by establishing surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens in human, food and veterinary isolates at the four participating sites in Mexico. All the investigators underwent training in the U.S. prior to the project’s initiation in order to standardize methods for isolation, identification, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing at the four sites. The Mexico project goals include: 1) development of effective surveillance of antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens in human, food, and veterinary laboratories at the four participating sites, 2) standardization of the methods for isolation, identification, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of foodborne pathogens at the four sites, 3) determination of the prevalence of Salmonella, Campylobacter, and quinolone-resistant E. coli in asymptomatic and ill humans, poultry, pork, beef, and healthy food animals on farms, and 4) identification and comparison of the susceptibility profiles of the Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli isolates. Goals 1 and 2 are accomplished: Goals 3 and 4 are on-going. The project has fostered collaboration among Mexican and U.S. microbiologists and epidemiologists and has strengthened the Mexican national capacity in the surveillance of foodborne disease and resistant pathogens.

The surveillance system is designed to identify outbreaks of foodborne illness, in particular those that are multi-drug resistant, in time to respond to public health hazards with mitigations designed to stop the spread of the resistant pathogens. For example, we have already identified quinolone-resistant E. coli infections among children in day-care centers in the Yucatan. The principal investigator at the Yucatan site has implemented procedures to determine the etiology of the resistance and is providing follow-up care for the affected children. The Team has presented the data gathered from the project at several international meetings and an article on “Risk Factors for Quinolone-Resistant Escherichia coli in Mexican Children” which published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in June.

Team Members

FDA/Center for Veterinary Medicine

  • RADM Linda Tollefson
    Deputy Director
  • Ms. Sonya Bodeis
    Office of Research
  • CAPT Marcia L. Headrick
    NARMS Coordinator
  • Patrick F. McDermott, Ph.D.
    Office of Research
  • David G. White, Ph.D.
    Office of Research
  • Robert Walker, Ph.D.
    Director, Division of Animal and Food Microbiology
    Office of Research

USDA/Agricultural Research Service Employees

  • Paula J. Fedorka-Cray, Ph.D.
    NARMS Project Officer
    Athens, GA
  • Jovita Hermosillo
    Athens, GA
  • Scott Ladely
    Athens, GA

International – Mexico

  • Mussaret Zaidi, M.D., M.P.H.
    Principal Investigator
  • Hospital O’Horan
    Merida, Yucatan