Political leaders in animal health from around the world met this week to discuss national action plans aimed at controlling the use of antimicrobials in order to address the global rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the animal farming sector as part of the second Global Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance & Prudent Use of Antimicrobial Agents in Animals, organized by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Antimicrobials are essential to control and treat infections in animals and humans, but they are losing their efficacy because they are not being used prudently and responsibly, OIE said. The increasing movement of people, animals and goods across international borders enables resistant microbes to colonize the planet with ease, which affects the future of food safety and security, animal health and human health.
Speaking in front of official representatives from OIE’s 182 member countries, the ministerial panel — which included ministers and vice ministers from Germany, Japan, Norway, Thailand, Botswana, Senegal, Serbia and Uzbekistan — spoke about their countries’ challenges and successes, as well as the particular issues faced by developing countries.
“Farming represents 35% of Morocco’s [gross domestic product], so we are committed to tackling this issue both locally and nationally,” said Aziz Akhannouch, minister of agriculture, seafishing, country development, waters and forests for Morocco, which hosted the conference in Marrakesh. “This is an issue which transcends human and animal health, and we are proud that OIE has recognized the success of our strategy to promote animal health, control disease and stop the spread of AMR.”
Also speaking on the panel, Hanne Maren Blåfjelldal, state secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture & Food in Norway, said, “Norway is a world leader in animal health, and this stems from good cooperation between our government, responsible veterinarians and a competent, engaged livestock sector. We are committed to using our own experience in preventing the spread of [AMR] to help other countries work towards minimize this threat in their own farming sectors.”
“OIE standards were a good basis to Germany in developing our national strategy, and to date, the strategy appears to be working,” said Julia Klöckner, Germany’s federal minister for food, agriculture and consumer protection.“Transparency is key and demonstrates to farmers, scientists and all sectors that their actions are being taken seriously and being used to improve animal and public health.”
According to the most recent data collected by OIE, as of 2015, 64 countries had regulations in place against the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion. There is an international consensus that such use should be phased out and that countries should immediately restrict use for growth promotion purposes of those antibiotics that are listed by the World Health Organization as the highest-priority critically important antibiotics for human medicine.
OIE said it is pioneering a comprehensive data collection tool through the OIE Database on Antimicrobial Agents Intended for Use in Animals. The database compiles relevant data about member countries’ use of antimicrobial medicines in animal health. In 2017, 84% of the 182 OIE member countries provided data on their use of antimicrobials in animals — proof of the strong involvement of countries in the fight against AMR.
“We want to help all of our member countries improve their ability to implement the OIE International Standards,” OIE deputy director general Matthew Stone said. “Through the OIE Database on Usage of Antimicrobial Agents, OIE builds national capacity — among all countries — to collect data and track antimicrobial use in animal health. This is a key indicator of our progress in preventing the development of AMR.”
Dame Sally Davies, co-convener of the U.N. Interagency Coordination Group on AMR, added, “When it comes to AMR, there should be no apportioning of blame. It is our shared problem, and we don’t expect a country to reach perfection overnight. That is why OIE is leading the adoption of a gradual approach, whereby the phasing out of the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters is simultaneously supported by the promotion of better animal husbandry practices.”
Europe, China join forces
Separately, experts and scientists from the European Union and China will work together in the EU-Chinese research project HealthyLivestock to tackle AMR. In the project, more than 20 partners from academia, research institutes, private partners and companies will join forces to work toward better health and welfare of pigs and poultry, according to an announcement from Wageningen Research, which will coordinate the project.
The HealthyLivestock project proposes to tackle AMR at its roots, the announcement said, through a multidisciplinary approach it is targeting at:
* A reduction in the risk for animals to be exposed to disease agents;
* Increased resilience of the animals towards disease challenges;
* Early detection of health problems and specific diseases, and
* More precise use if antimicrobials are needed, or alternatives.
The HealthyLivestock project will last four years. The EU's part is funded by the European Commission and China's part by the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology.