U.S. organizations take the antibiotic resistance challenge seriously

February 26, 2018

In my previous post, I discussed the organizations working on a global scale to ensure antibiotics are being used responsibly – organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Among other things, these organizations work to speed up the development of new medicines, help developing countries formulate antibiotic use strategies, and monitor how animal health products are being used.

What about here in the United States? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are all very active in efforts to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly, including helping to minimize agriculture’s contribution to the challenge of antibiotic resistance.

If you’ve followed the issue of antibiotic use in agriculture, you’re no doubt aware of the recent changes made in the U.S. in the interest of responsible use of antibiotics. Antibiotics that are considered important to human medicine can no longer be administered to promote growth in animals; they can only be used for prevention, treatment and control of disease. The animal health community supported this change and worked with the FDA to help make it a reality.

Another change is the increase in veterinary oversight. A veterinary feed directive (VFD) – essentially a prescription livestock and poultry farmers must obtain from a veterinarian – is now required before medically important drugs can be used in feed to treat, control and prevent disease in flocks and herds.

In its Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, the USDA supports the One Health approach – recognizing that the health of humans and animals is irrevocably linked and closely connected to the environment. Objectives of the USDA’s plan include identifying feasible management practices, alternatives to antibiotic use and other mitigations to reduce antibiotic resistance associated with food-producing animals.

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), a collaboration among state and local public health departments, CDC, USDA and FDA, allows experts to track and study changes in antibiotic resistance among several bacteria transmitted through food. A surveillance report is issued annually and in the latest one, federal health officials reported that while there are areas that warrant monitoring, overall antibiotic resistance levels remain low.

As I’ve said before, when I read articles discussing the issue of antibiotic resistance, it seems some people believe the issue is being ignored. To the contrary – it’s apparent that some of the best minds in the field are paying close attention both here and abroad.

Responsible antibiotic use plays a critical role in providing healthy food. Antibiotics make food safer by helping keep animals healthy, and studies show this reduces bacteria entering the food supply.

Keeping animals healthy also helps keep food more affordable while using fewer natural resources

Public health organizations here and around the world are taking the issue of antibiotic resistance seriously. Both animal and human health experts must work together to address the challenge in a manner that protects public health, our food supply, and animal health, ensuring both sectors continue to provide ethical care.

I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to send me an email at AskDrDorman@pahc.com or call me at 844-288-3623. You can also browse our Resource Library to learn more about this important topic.