Today, disease and safety experts issued a warning about superbug Bacteria found in people, animals and food. According to a report of the European food safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the threat these superbugs pose to public and animal health is "alarming." Resistant to antibiotics, it is estimated these bacteria cause the death of roughly 25,000 people each year Europe-wide.

Serious efforts to stop the superbugs still fall short

Vytenis Andriukaitis, health and food safety commissioner for the European Union, stated in Reuters that antimicrobial resistance to antibiotics and other medications is a major threat to both human and animal health.

He went on to state that although substantial efforts are currently being made to tackle the problem, they are still not enough. Authorities must step up their actions and attack the problem from several fronts in order to achieve significant improvements.

Overuse of antibiotics to blame

Superbugs become resistant to antibiotics due to the misuse or overuse of drugs. In order to survive, the bacteria develop new strategies to beat the medicines designed to kill them. Today's report focussed specifically on the Salmonella bacteria, which can cause a serious infection when food contiminated with the organism has been ingested. Salmonella has become resistant to multiple drugs in Europe.

Some superbugs appear to now be resistant to last-resort treatments

According to today's report, for the first time some superbugs have demonstrated resistance to both carbapenem and colistin antibiotics, both of which are often considered "last-resort" treatements for many bacterial infections. However, the levels of resistance were still at very low levels.

This low-level resistance to antibiotics included E. Coli bacteria found in pigs and pork meat.

Superbugs in northern and western Europe often exhibit lower resistance

The head of the EFSA's biological and containments unit, Marta Hugas, noted that in general countries in northern and western Europe demonstrated lower superbug resistance levels than in southern and eastern Europe.

According to Hugas, this is likely due to differences in the misue of medicines.

Countries that have addressed the problem by reducing, replacing or re-thinking antimicrobial use in animals are exhibiting lower levels of superbugs resistant to antibotics as well as reducing the trend, said Hugas.