Response on the UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance on the use of antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment ….

Comment on Report by the UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance on the use of antimicrobials in agriculture and the environment: reducing unnecessary use and waste

This latest report by the UK Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is an excellent overview of the scale of use of antimicrobials in animals reared for food production and of antimicrobial, human and animal waste released into the environment. The Review on AMR team have already reported on the cost to the global economy and human health of AMR, and this new report shows that the use of antimicrobials in animals and environmental contamination by waste is a significant driver of global levels of drug resistance. They have provided good evidence to support their recommendations of (1) a country by country target of an agreed and achievable level of drug use per kilogram of livestock and fish, and global harmonisation on which drugs should be restricted for use in people; (2) minimum standards on the amount of antimicrobial manufacturing waste that can be released into the environment; and (3) improved surveillance of drug use, waste produced and AMR in animals. There is also consensus with other reports that antimicrobial use in animals could be greatly reduced by better use of vaccines. The report also recommends the development of rapid diagnostics for use in farm animals (as are urgently required in human medicine) and increased awareness and education of the public about the use of antimicrobials in food production. Importantly, and unlike other reports, this report was compiled by economists and so provides suggestions on the role of fiscal measures such as taxation and regulation of use.

Since the Swann report was published in 1969, it has long been argued that antimicrobials that are used in human medicine should not be used in animals.  This was reiterated in 1997 and 1998 by two WHO committee reports.  Most recently, the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Antibiotics published its report on ‘Non-medical uses of antibacterial compounds (antibiotics): time to restrict their use?’ and recommended that antimicrobial use in animals should be minimised as soon as possible, and that there should be increased use of vaccines and improvements in animal hygiene and sanitation. This report was summarised in our recent article published in PLOS Biology.

Zac Goldsmith MP, Chair of the UK APPG on Antibiotics stated “I am delighted that the Review on AMR should confirm the findings of our own recent APPG report. I have long argued that antimicrobials that are used in human medicine should not be used in animals and this report provides further evidence for why this use should stop.”

Professor Laura Piddock, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Antibiotic Action, also said “Over the last 25 years, academics have repeatedly called for a reduction in global antimicrobial use in animals reared for food production.  Unfortunately, our calls have fallen on deaf ears. It is my hope that this report will provide the economic impetus to politicians to facilitate the development of new vaccines and treatments for use in animals combined with improved animal welfare so that valuable drugs such as antimicrobials can be retained for use in people”. She continued “It is in this vein the Review on AMR is to be applauded for it’s calls for action at the G20 and UN General Assembly, and their interactions at the highest governmental level is instrumental in resolving the global crisis of AMR.”

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