UK - The All Party Parliamentary Group on Antibiotics has released a report into the use of antibiotics outside of human medicine, but it has faced criticism related to the use of the drugs in animal health.
The report says that the depleting effective antimicrobial resources available, coupled with the many uses of the drugs outside of human medicine, leads to the question: "should antibacterial compounds be restricted to human use?"
It criticises the use of antibiotics in growth promotion, the administration of antibiotics to whole groups of animals when only a few are infected and the preventative use of antibiotics before any infection is detected.
It also says that veterinary medicine, similar to its human counterpart, suffers from a lack of quick tests to identify the organism responsible for an infection, meaning that vets have to use their experience and symptoms to identify the correct drug to use.
The report suggests that use of antibiotics in aquaculture is an increasing concern, suggesting that antibiotics sometimes have to be used due to the sub-optimal, stressful conditions in which the fish have to live. It recommends that aquaculture sites should be far from wild fish so as not to spread antibiotic resistance.
The report also recommends a global ban on growth-promotion use of the drugs, more monitoring of veterinary antibiotic use, and more research into improving conditions animals live in to help reduce infections.
Report suggestions could be 'counter-productive'
The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), the group representing the UK animal medicines industry, said the report fails to recognise the steps that have already been taken by vets and farmers to prevent disease and minimise antibiotic use on farms where possible.
Whilst backing proactive initiatives to support the development and use of vaccines and other disease prevention measures, NOAH said it believes antibiotics are necessary for vets and farmers to treat infectious diseases, in order to preserve animal health and welfare.
NOAH said that some of the ideas suggested in the report could be counter-productive. The report advocates measures to reduce stress in animals to try to reduce susceptibility to disease. Yet it criticises the use of the highly regulated route of treatment to groups of animals through medicated feed and water.
Dawn Howard explained: “There are many animal-friendly reasons why medicines can be prescribed in this way by a veterinary surgeon.
“For groups of animals, fish or birds there is less stress than injection or individual oral dosing. Where treatment is needed, the vet supplies a prescription for treatment through medicated feed or through the water, depending on the product being used. The whole process is highly regulated through European and national legislation.”
The report also suggests certain classes of antibiotics should be reserved for humans, but NOAH believes that animal welfare would suffer if some classes were not available.
NOAH said that removal of some classes from the veterinary sector would place undue selective pressure on the remaining classes which could increase resistance to those classes – having the opposite effect to what the committee probably intends.
Dawn Howard concluded: “We believe that responsible use of veterinary antibiotics is the best way to help preserve these precious medicines for us all, without compromising the health and welfare of our animals.”