The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is looking at whether its advice about the use of colistin in animals, especially pigs, needs to be updated following a request from the European Commission (EC).
Colistin has traditionally been used as a last-resort antibiotic for the treatment of some bacterial infections in humans. But it is also approved in veterinary medicine for the treatment of infected animals, especially pigs and those in contact with them. It is not approved for prophylactic use.
The request by the EC to revise the veterinary guidelines follows the recent discovery of a colistin-resistant gene – the MCR-1 gene. The gene was first detected in bacteria that were isolated from pigs, pork and chicken products and from a small number of humans in South China. The gene has since appeared in the European Union, including the UK.
An EMA expert group — the Antimicrobial Advice Ad Hoc Expert Group (AMEG), which drew up the original 2013 advice, is being reconvened to reconsider its position following the discovery of the MCR-1 gene.
The group will review the new evidence and whether its original advice needs to change. It will take into account the importance of colistin to human and veterinary medicine, the impact of resistance, the availability of alternative treatments and the effectiveness of possible risk-management measures to protect human and animal health.
The review is expected to take six months. Any changes will have to be approved by the EMA before recommendations are made to the EC.