We need a collaborative, One Health response to antimicrobial resistance if we are to deal with this challenge

Antimicrobial resistance (or AMR) is the ability of a microorganism – such as bacteria, viruses and some parasites – to adapt antibiotics, reducing these medicines effectiveness. 

It’s a natural process that has existed long before modern antibiotics. Researchers have found traces of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in places as old and unexpected as ancient Egyptian tombs.

It is a real threat that costs lives and must be managed. Antibiotics are essential in allowing vets and farmers to treat sick animals, easing their suffering and protecting the livelihoods and safe supply of food for millions of people around the world. 

For us, we’ve all seen how antibiotics can protect the lives of our friends and family when they face serious illness. We have a responsibility -- to both humans and animals -- to treat disease today while preserving antibiotics for the future. 

This is why animal health professionals believe in a simple, clear and firm approach to antibiotic use -- ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary.’ Each person, animal and illness is unique. However, experts, including doctors and veterinarians, can develop tailored treatments that alleviate suffering without overuse.

This collaborative approach is key; not just at the treatment level, but, across the entire healthcare system. If human and animal health professionals can work together, we will better understand the complexity of the AMR threat and the most effective solutions.

Unilateral action by just the animal health or human health cannot solve the problem, as studies have found.

Veterinarians and farmers cannot afford to lose antibiotics or animals will pay the price. Managing resistance can be difficult, but it is possible. If animal and human health can work hand-in-hand on this challenge, we can safeguard our health for generations to come.

And just as we need to strike a careful balance between treatment and preservation, we must also bring balance to the global debate about this threat. 

The risk otherwise is that the conversation around this major public health issue becomes an exchange of opinion, rather than a productive consideration of the facts. 

We must truly understand the problem of AMR in all its complexity if we are to solve it. And collaboration between the human and animal health sectors will be vital in better understanding the risks, and considering alternatives to antibiotics. 

Quick Facts

  • Antibiotics exist to fight disease:  20% of livestock animals are lost to disease each year . There is a moral responsibility to treat sick animals, for the sake of the animals themselves and the many millions of people around the world who depend upon them for their food and livelihoods.
  • Animal medicines sector is committed to the fight: In 2017, we launched our 'Antbiotics Commitment', which outlines our six principles for taking on AMR and promoting responsible use of antibiotics
  • Animal medicines is acting on AMR: From training veterinarians to increasing investment into preventative medicine, our sector is taking concrete action to address this threat. See some of them in our 'Principles in Action' overview which shows how we live up to our Antibiotics Commitment.
  • Addressing AMR through animals only is not a solution: We need One Health approaches that address the problem proportionally and simultaneously in both people and animals. If animal health becomes a scapegoat, the problem will continue while animals could face welfare issues.
  • Veterinarians lead the way: Qualified vets on the ground – supported by responsible use guidelines and tools provided by the animal health sector – are best placed to make judgments on the use of antibiotics.