Health

Background

Countries back UN antimicrobial resistance challenge

Nations across the globe are stepping up to make commitments to accelerate the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across the globe.

Nearly 220 commitments have been made by over 20 countries to join the United Nations Challenge, which encourages a One Health approach, recognising that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. Organisations are being asked to make commitments in at least 1 of 5 commitment areas in the yearlong UN challenge:

  1. Tracking and data – sharing and improving data collection
  2. Infection prevention and control – reducing the spread of resistant germs
  3. Antibiotic use – improving appropriate antibiotic use
  4. Environment and sanitation – decrease antibiotics and resistance in the environment
  5. Vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics – investing in development and approved access.
Antibiotic use can lead to microbes becomming resistant. Appropriate use is of the essence. Photo: Ronald Hissink
Antibiotic use can lead to microbes becomming resistant. Appropriate use is of the essence. Photo: Ronald Hissink

Prevention strategies

The US is leading the way, having made 175 commitments, followed by Europe with 20 and India with 8. Among the organisations that have made commitments is the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), which commits to maintaining poultry health and welfare by implementing strategies to prevent, control and treat common diseases by using an evidence-based approach in antimicrobial decisions. Its members will then use antimicrobials judiciously and with continual evaluation of the outcomes. AAAP said it was committed to collecting and tracking on-farm antimicrobial use data by its veterinarians, who are assisting with a project to quantify on-farm antimicrobial use within the US poultry industry.

The Antibiotic Resistance Action Centre (ARAC) in Washington DC has committed to advancing knowledge of how antibiotic use in food animals impacts human health and to improving antibiotic prescribing in the urgent care sector. ARAC is studying the impact of new California legislation, which limits the use of antibiotics in livestock, by testing purchased meat and human biological samples from the region for antibiotic-resistant germs that can cause infections.

Company commitments

German-based company Boehringer Ingelheim, a firm focusing on advanced disease prevention for animal health, has committed to reducing the use of and need for antibiotics in animals through an integrated health monitoring approach using technologies that enable effective monitoring, early detection and accurate diagnosis of resistant infections in animals, including poultry.

Austrian animal nutrition firm Biomin committed itself to “expanding the reduction of non-medically necessary use of antibiotic feed solutions across the agriculture sector globally.” This will be accomplished primarily through greater adoption of the firm’s biotech-based solutions that cover mycotoxin risk management, gut performance and animal nutrition. Dr Jan Vanbrabant, Managing Director of Biomin, said: “In order to preserve the medicinal value of antibiotics, we need to use less of them. That means using alternatives to promote growth and maintain healthy animals.”

And global animal health company Elanco is dedicated to developing innovative solutions that protect and enhance animal health, committing to invest at least 50% of its food animal research and development budget in projects that will lead to alternatives for medically important antibiotics, including the introduction of non-medically important antibiotics to replace Colistin in key emerging markets.

During the life of a poultry flock sharing and improving data collection can give insights in antibiotic usage. A sort of a flock passport could improve registration. Photo: Bart Nijs
During the life of a poultry flock sharing and improving data collection can give insights in antibiotic usage. A sort of a flock passport could improve registration. Photo: Bart Nijs

Reduction underway

Meanwhile, the UK poultry sector continues to drive down its use of antibiotics. Figures released by the British Poultry Council (BPC) earlier this month show the poultry meat sector had achieved:

• 82% reduction in the total use of antibiotics in the last six years (2012-17)

• 91% reduction in the use of Fluoroquinolones (critically important antibiotic for human health) in the same time period with a 39.36% fall in the last two years.

Biosecurity and disease management

Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “The achievements made by members of the BPC are remarkable. Continuously reviewing on-farm biosecurity and disease management practices whilst ensuring prudent use of antibiotics is integral to the sustainability of British agriculture. The dedication and determination of BPC’s members to deliver responsible reductions in the use of antibiotics will help to protect and preserve the efficacy of antibiotics going forward.”

John Reed, BPC chairman, added that while half of the meat eaten in the UK was poultry, the sector used less than 9.7% of the total antibiotics licensed for food producing animals. “We have successfully reduced our antibiotic use by 82% in the last six years and have stopped all preventative treatments as well as the use of Colistin. The highest priority antibiotics that are critically important to humans are only used as a ‘last resort’.”

Pressure from investors for companies to cut antibiotic use is continuing. The Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) coalition said it had engaged with 20 companies worth a combined $ 280bn on the issue since 2016. The companies have been asked to establish a policy to phase out routine, non-medical use of antibiotics across their supply chains; specify clear targets and timelines for implementation and report more transparently on their activities. FAIRR is looking for greater transparency on implementation, and is asking companies for greater disclosure around antibiotics use and auditing practices. Jo Raven, engagement manager at FAIRR, said the organisation would be actively looking “at the pharmaceutical companies that make antibiotics for animal feed”.