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‘One Health’ approach for monitoring pathogens and antibiotic resistance in humans and animals

There is an urgent need to increase the detection and monitoring speed of bacterial antibiotic resistance (ABR). Even though traditional techniques to meet this need are accurate, they tend to be slow and laborious. A fast and accurate detection method is important to aid quick decision-making, and foreseeing or locating the source of a possible outbreak caused by an ABR bacteria. STAMINA tools are designed to work competently with such quick detection and ABR monitoring tools. This allows us to locate problems faster and send timely warnings, this could entail advise tonot eat certain food products or to not swim in open and recreational waters when they contain high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


The beneficial effect of antibiotics is evidenced by their widespread use across the world to treat bacterial infections in both humans and animals. However, they can also be harmful as they can target non-pathogenic and beneficial bacteria, which are part of the normal healthy microbiome essential for the optimal functioning of our body. An aspecific (broad-spectrum) antibiotic or an unsuccessful antibiotic treatment that does not completely eradicate the harmful bacteria removes many other and mostly beneficial bacteria and will leave more damage than cure. When beneficial bacteria are removed, it can take months for the body to recover them1. Furthermore, the careless use of antibiotics can lead to more antibiotic resistance which can limit the effectiveness of future antibiotic treatment. This is one of the main aspects of ‘One Health’.

‘One Health’ recognises the need for an optimized and healthy shared environment between people and animals. The World Health Organization defines ‘One Health’ as “an approach to design and implement programs, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes”. This approach is especially relevant to topics that humans and animals are intertwined in, such as food safety, zoonoses and antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics treat infectious bacterial diseases in both humans and livestock or companion animals; sometimes similar antibiotics are used for humans and animals.

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Firstly, the key problem lies with the bacteria that cause infections in the host and pathogenic bacteria that become resistant. Information about how to become resistant to antibiotics can be quickly transferred from one bacterium to another via mobile genetic elements such as plasmids. As a result, antibiotic treatment cannot efficiently attack the infection-causing bacterium anymore and the patient (human or animal) may not be cured from the infection and can die.

Secondly, antibiotics reduce the abundance and diversity of all bacteria in the human and animal bodies, and they become part of our environment. Resistant bacteria that reside in the body are excreted via stool or urine and these become part of our wastewater. Contaminated wastewater or animal manure, for example, is then used for other purposes, such as irrigating edible plants and fertilizing agricultural fields, respectively. As a result, resistant bacteria and their mobile genetic elements containing resistance genes, are circulated in the environment and livestock farms, thereby contaminating our food2.

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Due to the rapidly increasing number of resistant bacteria and stagnating development of new treatment methods, it is important to identify the resistant bacteria and the development of resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria already have the ability to cause severe infections in humans and animals without being resistant. When a pathogenic bacterium becomes resistant, there will be no effective antibiotic treatments for infections of these pathogens. Therefore, it is important to monitor for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and antibiotic residues in the food industry, healthcare facilities, the community and the environment and prevent future outbreaks.



1: Dethlefsen L, Huse S, Sogin ML, Relman DA. The pervasive effects of an antibiotic on the human gut microbiota, as revealed by deep 16S rRNA sequencing. PLoS Biol. 2008 Nov 18;6(11):e280. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060280. PMID: 19018661; PMCID: PMC2586385.

2: Huygens, Judith, Els Daeseleire, Jacques Mahillon, Daan Van Elst, Johan Decrop, Jurgen Meirlaen, Jeroen Dewulf, Marc Heyndrickx, and Geertrui Rasschaert. 2021. “Presence of Antibiotic Residues and Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria in Cattle Manure Intended for Fertilization of Agricultural Fields: A One Health Perspective” Antibiotics 10, no. 4: 410.

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