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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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New NARMS Retail Meat Report Streamlined, More User Friendly

by Jon F. Scheid, Editor
FDA Veterinarian Newsletter 2008 Volume XXIII, No IV

2006 NARMS Report CoverThe most recent National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Retail Meats Report, containing data from 2006, was posted on the Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Web site in October 2008.

The report’s authors have improved the document’s readability by eliminating duplicative information to reduce its complexity and by highlighting key information.

NARMS is a national monitoring program operated jointly by CVM, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through the program, public health specialists collect data to monitor changes in antimicrobial drug susceptibilities of certain bacteria collected from humans, animals, and retail meats. They publish the data for wider use.

The report’s authors had received some feedback from users that said the previous reports were difficult to navigate, which led to the revision. As an indication of the streamlining that took place, the latest report is 90 pages, down from the 240 pages of the previous report.

The NARMS program began in 1996. Since 2002, the program includes surveillance of retail cuts of meat. Each month, officials from 10 sites across the United States each collect 10 chicken breasts, ground turkey, ground beef, and pork chops samples from retail operations.

The samples are purchased by personnel at “FoodNet” (Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network) sites. FoodNet is a joint effort by the Department of Health and Human Services, State health departments, and USDA. The FoodNet program was created to capture a more accurate and complete picture of trends in the occurrence of foodborne illness.

Under the NARMS retail meat program, the 10 FoodNet sites analyze the samples for Campylobacter and Salmonella using standard methods. In addition, four sites culture samples they collect for the presence of Enterococcus and E. coli, using FDA-described methods.

Bacterial isolates are sent to FDA/CVM for confirmation of species and serotypes, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, and genetic analysis.

Changes to the report

Earlier reports presented fairly extensive information by State, but those data were useful only to the individual States, according to Dr. Patrick McDermott, acting NARMS Director. Also, previous reports combined some data from different types of meat, “which did not offer insight into sources of resistance,” Dr. McDermott said. In addition, previous reports contained some redundant information, which was removed for the most recent report.

The newer report also provides more usable information on Campylobacter. “We removed the tables for overall data on Campylobacter and added tables and figures that show specifics for C. jejuni and C. coli,” Dr. McDermott said. Those two Campylobacter species account for more than 90 percent of all isolates, and they show “important and substantial difference in their rates of resistance,” he said. “Because C. jejuni causes more than 90 percent of human infections, resistance by species provides an added layer of information needed to estimate public health consequences of resistance,” he added.

Another significant improvement in the report about 2006 data is that it contains revised information on multidrug resistance patterns for Salmonella and E. coli. This information highlights patterns of public health interest, such as ACSSuT (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole/sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline), ACT/S (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole), and ACSSuTAuCf (ACSSuT, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, and ceftiofur).

Although no further changes are currently planned, Dr. McDermott said he continues to seek feedback from users so he can make improvements in the future. But for now, he said, “We believe the changes make the report more concise and user-friendly, and thus more accessible by stakeholders.” 

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