History of the division

The Unit was established in 1995 following the investigation of the importance of the use of antimicrobial growth promoters for food animals on the selection and spread of resistance.

The research within the unit has mainly been concentrated on investigating the relationships between the use of antimicrobial agents and the occurrence, selection and spread of resistant bacteria and resistance genes.

A continuous monitoring of antimicrobial resistance (DANMAP) was also, as the first place in the world, established within the unit. The research in the section has to a large extent been based on the results from this monitoring. Most of the studies are concentrated on Salmonella, Campylobacter, staphylococci, enterococci and Escherichia coli.

These activities have gained international approval, in 2000 leading to the establishment of WHO Collaborating Centre for antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens and genomics, in 2006 leading to being appointed EU Reference Laboratory for Antimicrobial Resistance (EURL-AR) by the European Commission, and in 2019 being appointed as FAO Reference Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance.
Development, adaptation, spread and persistence of antimicrobial resistance are not only consequences of the amounts of antimicrobial agents used. Realising this, the unit during the last years has increased its activities within horizontal gene transfer, the advantages and disadvantages of acquiring resistance and evolution of resistance.

As global trade with meat, live animals and travel activity has increased and brings optimal opportunities for spread of new pathogens and resistance, it has been necessary to focus on food safety on an international level. Therefore, focus has lately been on emerging resistance and spread of resistance via imported meat and production animals. The focus has also changed to include basic molecular mechanisms of the infectious process.

In the summer of 2020, the Division for Global Surveillance was formed (Frank Aarestrup, Head of Division). The division is made up of two research groups: Research Group for Genomic Epidemiology (Frank Aarestrup, Group Leader) and Research Group for Global Capacity Building (Rene Hendriksen, Group Leader).


Frank Møller Aarestrup
Professor, Head of Division
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 62 81