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Five ways the animal health industry is tackling AMR and responsible use

You’ve heard it from us before, antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats to human and animal life. 

While the major cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in humans is the use of antibiotics in human medicine, the animal health industry has a significant responsibility in combatting global resistance.  Controlling animal disease ensures the safety and security of our food, reduces the risk of bacterial animal-borne diseases, and protects livelihoods. 

For this reason, fighting AMR demands a One Health approach – it is the responsibility of both the human and animal health sector to take action and work together. 

Five ways animal health is fighting AMR 

Preventing illness in the first place is one of the strongest ways to reduce AMR. Below, we explore five examples of how this is happening on the ground right now. All are taken from our Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics

1. Online training for farmers to support responsible use of antibiotics

IN the UK the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH), RUMA, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and leading academics developed a robust and trusted online training programme for all those working in the sheep, dairy, beef and pig sectors in the UK. The programme aims to raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of AMR and helps drive best practice in a consistent manner across UK farms when it comes to using antibiotics.

2. Educating vets on how to use antibiotics judiciously and responsibly

Making rational judgements about whether to prescribe antibiotics can be challenging in the midst of a busy veterinary consultation room. And, standards can vary between localities and continents. This is where GRAM comes in. GRAM – ‘Guidance for the rational use of antimicrobials’ is a comprehensive, practical and easy-to-use guide by an independent panel of 10 experts from seven European countries. The guide is distributed freely across the globe in multiple languages.  

3. Increasing access to the tools that allow better  disease prevention 

Prevention is always better than cure. If you can stop a disease from taking hold in the first place, you can avoid the need for antibiotics. And, that’s just what the ALPHA initiative, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to do. 

In Sub-Saharan Africa, it has increased access to veterinary medicines, diagnostics and education. It has meant livestock is better cared for, better vaccinated and, ultimately, healthier. Veterinary laboratory networks were also set-up hubs in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, helping share much needed resources and knowledge that are so often lacking in these areas of Africa. 

4. Investing in the development of new technologies for prevention and treatment

A new type of technology promotes the natural secretion of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that can treat bacterial infections. Based on plant extracts, the AMPs have been successful at treatment where antibiotics have failed, especially in skin infections in dogs. This will ultimately reduce the need for antibiotics in the treatment of minor skin infections. Elsewhere pharmaceutical companies around the world are dedicating R&D specifically towards alternatives to antibiotics, such as new vaccines. 

5. Improving sensitivity testing to aid better antibiotic selection

Dairy farmers in New Zealand can now know just how antibiotic resistant their herd is, thanks to a new antibiotic sensitivity test for mastitis bacteria called DairyAntibiogram. It covers 10 antibiotics and means farmers can select the most effective and responsible antibiotic treatment for their specific herd.  This subsequently reduces the risk of new AMR strains emerging in the animal population.

We celebrate more examples of how the animal health industry is fighting AMR in our Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics. But this is just the beginning and, this World Antibiotics Awareness Week, we ask others to embrace these commitments too.