Fighting antimicrobial resistance

Fighting antimicrobial resistance is one of the AVA's five strategic priorities.

Antibiotic resistance is a global issue and it has been shown that antimicrobial resistance can be passed to humans through the food chain. While this is a significantly smaller risk in Australia than in other nations, the veterinary profession accepts its responsibility to working alongside human health professions to fight resistance at every opportunity.

Veterinarians rely on antibiotics to treat animals and prevent suffering in pets, livestock and other animals. It is critical that they are able to retain access to the essential medications they need, and that they prescribe them responsibly.

A key step is for the Australian government to accurately monitor and report both antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance in all species. At the same time, the veterinary profession must improve antibiotic prescribing practices and demonstrate responsible stewardship of antimicrobial drugs.

In 2015, the Australian Government released its first ever national strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance. It includes a number of priorities for action relating to antibiotic use in animals as well as issues relating to veterinary practice such as infection prevention and control. This strategic priority program provides the means for the AVA to participate in the national One Health initiatives to combat antimicrobial resistance, and the implementation of the national strategy.

Program

There are several streams to the program – antibiotic prescribing guidelines, antimicrobial stewardship, community awareness, and the national One Health policy agenda.

Antibiotic prescribing guidelines

In 2016 the AVA embarked on a project in partnership with Animal Medicines Australia. The goal of the project is to develop best-practice antibiotic prescribing guidelines for horses and the main livestock species, with appropriate structures for governance and management. In 2017 work will commence on the prescribing guidelines for pigs, with additional funding provided by The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Australian Pork Limited.

Antimicrobial stewardship

Evidence-based prescribing guidelines already exist for dogs and cats (AIDAP prescribing guidelines). In 2016, AVA is coordinating a pilot trial of an antimicrobial stewardship program with companion animal practices in Canberra. This idea is at the instigation of two Canberra practitioners and it is being supported by a small working group of staff and volunteers.

Community awareness

AVA has participated in Antibiotic Awareness Week since 2012 and has been represented on the national organising committee since 2013. This will continue as a way of helping increase understanding about antibiotic use and resistance in animals among animal owners and human health professionals.

One Health policy agenda

AVA is represented on the Australian Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (ASTAG), and this group will be monitoring the implementation plan for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019. The implementation plan is still to be finalised, but is likely to include a number of key projects and concerns recommended by AVA.

Key points

Antibiotic resistance and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ is a global problem. Everyone needs to understand the problem and contribute to preserving these important life-saving drugs. Veterinarians and human health experts are working together in Australia to tackle the issue.

Health care is as important to animals as to people, and antibiotics are part of providing the care animals need. Antibiotics are used in animals in Australia, and there are good controls on their use, particularly in food animals. Australia has also been very conservative in registering antibiotics for use in food animals, particularly those ones important to human health.

Antibiotics are used to treat diseases in individual animals, as well as to treat groups of animals at risk of disease. In some farming systems, they’re used to prevent serious health problems, and not surprisingly, healthy animals grow much better than those that are not healthy.

Many agriculture industries have changed how they manage animals in order to reduce antibiotic use, but there will always be some risk of infection and we need to be able to use antibiotics if necessary.

We need better surveillance to learn where the biggest risks are to human health and what actions we can take. We do know that resistant bugs can transfer to humans through undercooked food. Resistant bugs can also transfer between people and animals through close contact and the transfer can be in either direction.

Other countries have different approaches to antibiotic use in animals than we do in Australia, and these practices can result in larger impacts on human health. We need to work globally to reduce the problem beyond Australia to make sure, for example, that travellers returning to Australia do not bring home antibiotic-resistant bugs.

Information

Resources

Submissions

Inquiry into the progress in the implementation of the ecommendations of the 1999 Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR) Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration - 15 February 2013 - See more at: http://www.ava.com.au/about-us/policy-and-positions/topics-0#sthash.CI3S...

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