BVA welcomes publication of Government’s five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy but Soil Association claims the Government’s overall approach is “weak and ineffectual”.

The BVA has welcomed the publication of the Government’s five-year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013-2018, which calls for action in both human and animal medicine under the banner of One Health.

In March 2013, the UK Chief Medical Officer’s report highlighted the significant scale of the threat of antimicrobial resistance, and the new strategy has been published jointly by Defra, the Department of Health, the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive.

The strategy sets out three strategic aims and outlines seven key areas for future action:

  • Improving infection prevention and control practices
  • Optimising prescribing practice
  • Improving education, training and public engagement
  • Developing new drugs, treatments and diagnostics
  • Better access to and use of surveillance
  • Better identification and prioritisation of AMR research needs
  • Strengthened international collaboration

The strategy acknowledges increasing scientific evidence suggests the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than use of antibiotics in animals, but that the use in animals is an important factor contributing to the wider pool of resistance.

BVA president Peter Jones said: “Antimicrobial resistance is indeed one of the most significant threats to animal and human health and we fully support the aims of the UK strategy.

“BVA has long championed the need for the responsible use of these vital medicines and we will continue to engage with vets in all types of practice to ensure this message is heard loud and clear.

BVA president Peter Jones“In addition to measures to improve prescribing practices, we welcome the focus on surveillance, research needs, and development of new drugs. As the Strategy acknowledges, the development pipeline for new antibiotics is at an all-time low, which is very true of the animal health sector as well, and so we welcome measures to investigate how to manage this trend.

“We are also pleased to see definitive statements on the fact that the major driver for antibiotic resistance in people is the use of antibiotics in humans, but we fully recognise the need to tackle resistance in animals. That is why the One Health approach of medical and veterinary professionals working together will be crucial to the success of the Strategy.”

The strategy has not been welcomed by everyone, however. Soil Association policy advisor Richard Young said: “There is a wealth of evidence showing antibiotic resistance can and does pass to humans from animals through the food chain and the environment.

“Some individual vets and some farmers are doing outstanding work in reducing the use of antimicrobials, but we need an effective national strategy. In relation to farm antibiotic use the Government’s overall approach is weak and ineffectual.

“As it stands, the strategy will be grossly inadequate to address the huge scale of the farming problem. In our view antimicrobials should no longer be given to healthy farm animals as a cheap insurance against the possibility of disease.

“The strategy also contains no proposals for new legislation to ensure that farm animals are kept in healthier, less intensive conditions, even though it is clear this reduces ill health and the need for antimicrobials.”

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