Innovative solutions called for to curb antimicrobial resistance

Alternative methods in preventing and treating infections in animals are required to overcome antimicrobial resistance (AMR), according to industry experts. 

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have reviewed the measures carried out by the European Union in reducing antimicrobial usage in animals and concluded that “no-size-fits-all”.

The organisations highlighted that successful strategies involve all relevant stakeholders and follow an integrated, multifaceted approach that also takes into consideration the local livestock production system.

“It is clear that strategies that are already available can be implemented immediately and will have a positive impact on levels of antimicrobial resistance,” said EFSA’s executive director, Dr Bernhard Url. “At the same time, there is a need for innovative solutions – we need to find alternative ways to prevent and treat bacterial infections in animals.”

Professor Guido Rasi, EMA’s executive director added: “There are only a few antibiotics in the development pipeline, hence those already available need to be used responsibly, both in humans and animals. Collecting data on AMR and antibiotic consumption is key to putting into place effective measures to control AMR and retain the effectiveness of antimicrobials for the benefit of public and animal health.”

Control strategies

Methods that have been successful in reducing AMR include setting national targets. AMR and EFSA said antimicrobials should be reduced to the minimum that is necessary to treat infectious diseases, with their usage to be phased out in favour of alternative measures expect with exceptional cases. Critically important antimicrobials for human medicine should only be used in animals as a last resort.

Alternatives to antimicrobials that have been successful in improving animal health include vaccines, probiotics, prebiotics, bacteriophages and organic acids.

Despite progress, reducing the use of antimicrobials in favour of alternatives is not enough, according to the organisations. Livestock systems should be rethought by implementing farming practices that prevent the introduction and spread of the disease into farms, alongside considering alternative farming systems which are viable with reduced use of antimicrobials.

Next month, EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will publish its annual report on the levels of antimicrobial resistance in food, animals and humans across the EU.

The two organisations, alongside EMA, are also working on a report assessing the link between consumption of antimicrobials and development of resistance in bacteria found in animals and humans, to be published at the end of July.

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