Time to Move the Dial on Antibiotic Use in Animals

There are important issues to be discussed at the upcoming NIAA-hosted Antibiotic Symposium which, according to keynote speaker Dr. Lonnie King, are cost effective, can be implemented quickly, and can have an impact on antibiotic resistance now.  

Antibiotic Stewardship: Collaborative Strategy for Animal Agriculture and Human Health is the theme for the 7th Antibiotic Symposium presented by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), once again bringing together all sectors of the animal food production industry and partners in human medicine and public health. This year’s Symposium will be held October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Dulles, in Herndon, VA.

Dr. King, Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, is presenting the closing remarks at the two and a half-day Symposium. His topic, What MUST Be Done Next: Prioritizing Immediate Actions, will seek to integrate the conclusions of the previous presenters, panel discussions and the deliberations of the participants into actions.

“We need different voices to produce consensus and cause action,” says Dr. King of the NIAA’s well-known focus on collaboration and bringing stakeholders together to analyze, evaluate, and discuss issues vital to the animal ag industry. Since 2011, NIAA has provided a setting for a thoughtful exchange of ideas for the betterment of animal and human health, including the use of antibiotics and the threat of resistance.

First, says Dr. King, is stewardship. “It doesn’t cost a lot to make good decisions and yet it does a lot to move the dial on the reduction of unnecessary use of antibiotics.” He cites thoughtful decisions that are made by health care providers and producers about the use of antibiotics.

Approximately 270 million prescriptions are written every year in human health, just for outpatients. At least 30% may be unnecessary, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts and other public health and medical experts. Stewardship, in human health, is an effort to counter this unnecessary use of antibiotics being prescribed by clinicians and other healthcare professionals. In animal ag, too, stewardship is of growing importance to help ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately, judiciously, and to optimize health outcomes while reducing any negative consequences.

“Antibiotic resistance is a crisis in human health, and it could be crisis in animal health if we don't get on top of it,” says Dr. King. “After six years of discussion, we can see clearly that while improvements have been made, globally, we are probably further behind than we were in 2011.”

In the US, the recent adoption of FDA guidance and changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive to eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics to promote growth in food animals has been a game changer for production animal agriculture. However, he says, unless we can get better baseline measurements of where we started to compare with what comes next, we can't tell how productive it will be, or the potential costs and health impact of these changes.

Another part of the equation, according to Dr. King, is awareness and education. “The public and our producers both need an improved awareness of antibiotic resistance. It is a very complicated issue and we need to make it more personal, better understood and tackled with a greater sense of urgency. While more studies and research are needed, we already know enough to act aggressively and decisively to effectively address antibiotic resistance,” says Dr. King.

Dr. King complements NIAA for pushing forward a variety of voices of animal health and human health. “NIAA is forward-looking and deserves a lot of credit for the kinds of meetings that really result in follow-up and actions,” says Dr. King.

For more information or to register, go to NIAA’s website, www.animalagriculture.org. Early bird registration discounts apply until October 13.

 

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