Veterinary Groups Issue Statement on Antimicrobial Use

The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.

Noting the importance of keeping the use of antimicrobials in all sectors as low as possible without compromising animal, human, environmental and public health, three international veterinary organizations have issued an updated statement regarding judicious use in food animals.

The new statement comes from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which together represent over 330,000 veterinarians in all disciplines of the veterinary profession.

In their statement, the groups note that any increase in antimicrobial resistance and spread of resistant bacteria poses a global threat to human and animal health. They stress that an international “One-Health” approach to the problem will promote and ensure the availability of effective antimicrobial treatments while minimizing resistance.

The groups also point out that data from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in 2015 indicate that more than 110 countries do not have relevant legislation regarding the authorization, manufacture, distribution, sales and use of veterinary antimicrobials, meaning sale of antimicrobials without authorization from a licensed health professional is widespread in many countries. Potential for overuse is high, and few countries reported a system for monitoring use of antimicrobials.

Key recommendations include:

  • All countries should strictly regulate manufacture, distribution and sales of antimicrobials and prosecute illegal manufacture, distribution or sales.
  • Medically or critically important antimicrobials should only be administered to animals with the oversight, in accordance with national legislation, of a licensed veterinarian.
  • Establish a global network of surveillance and monitoring systems for antimicrobial use and resistance development in people, animals, food products and the environment.
  • Develop and employ effective, rapid and standardized diagnostic tests to carry out susceptibility testing. Use test results to facilitate evidence-based decisions and to develop national or regional databases to collect and share susceptibility data.
  • Veterinarians must retain access to effective antimicrobials for therapeutic purposes for animals suffering from a bacterial disease in order to safeguard animal health and welfare and public health; therefore, antimicrobials must not be unilaterally limited for use in humans only.
  • Veterinarians must keep appropriate medical records of all antimicrobial use and participate in official jurisdictional surveillance programs of antimicrobial resistance development and use as required.
  • The AVMA, CVMA and FVE shall collaborate in promoting responsible use of antimicrobials in animal production and animal care in all countries, and in particular, in the developing world.

Reasonable, realistic standards for judicious use of antimicrobials, applied globally, represent our best opportunity for slowing the emergence of resistant pathogens and also protecting animal health. Pathogens know no borders, and neither do the resistance genes they potentially carry. The efforts of these groups to standardize practices internationally will be critical for long-term success.

Read the full statement from the AVMA.

Read more on this topic from BovineVetOnline:

Antimicrobial Stewardship: A Need for International Standards

Researchers Bust Antimicrobial-Resistance Myth

FDA Plan Previews the Future of Antimicrobial Stewardship