Scientists and animal health associations have debated whether evidence exists to demonstrate antimicrobial resistance (AMR) can be passed from farm animals to humans.

Staphylococcus aureus bacteria

A Soil Association advisor claims The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) and NOAH are “picking out a few small bits of evidence they feel strengthen their position”. The claim came from an evidence hearing of the House of Commons science and technology committee, which set out to discover whether the Government’s proposed actions (namely its five-year AMR strategy [VT 43.38]) is enough to combat the issue.
Witnesses, including NOAH chief executive Phil Sketchley, were asked if there was a “strong concern” over AMR in animal pathogens.
John FitzGerald, secretary general of RUMA, said AMR was recognised as a serious issue, particularly in human medicine, but in animals “there is not so much evidence there’s a problem”.
“Other than with pig dysentery, which has developed resistance for the main courses of treatment, as far as we are aware, there is not a significant issue,” he said.
However, he thought the “bulk” of research had been on zoonotic pathogens rather than pathogens that affect only animals.
Cóilín Nunan, principal scientic advisor at the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics and an antibiotics advisor to the Soil Association, disagreed with Mr FitzGerald, saying an “enormous amount” of evidence exists to demonstrate the contrary, but admitted the challenge in establishing it in some cases.

He further claimed the two animal health experts were choosing particular evidence to back up their view that there was little overlap between AMR pathogens in animals and humans.
  • For more on this debate, see the full article by Rebecca Hubbard in this week’s Veterinary Times (44.07)

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