The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) supports the select committee on science and technology’s call for action to help ensure continued availability of effective antibiotics.

Chief executive Phil Sketchley said: “The report says a link between the transmission of resistance from animal to human pathogens is circumstantial rather than conclusive. We welcome the committee’s proposal for more structured research in this area.

“Those prescribing and using antibiotics for animals already take their responsibilities seriously. There is already action in response to the department of health and DEFRA’s joint five-year strategy. For example, RUMA (the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) has produced an action plan for livestock.”

However, he explained, just as for people, there are occasions when antibiotics need to be used to prevent or control outbreaks of bacterial disease, in the same way as they are used in human medicine – for example, in meningitis outbreaks in schools or universities.

“NOAH does not believe there is widespread routine use of antibiotics in healthy animals. We agree antibiotics should not be used on a routine prophylactic basis to compensate for poor hygiene or for inadequate husbandry conditions or where improvements in animal husbandry could reduce the need for antibiotic treatment. However, vets need to be able to prescribe medicines to prevent and control outbreaks of disease.

Antibiotics can be used responsibly to cure, control and, in exceptional circumstances, prevent disease in animals. They are only prescribed under the control of a veterinary surgeon on the basis of epidemiological and clinical knowledge,” he added.

NOAH will be looking at the report in more detail and will prepare more detailed comments.

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