Reducing animals’ need for antibiotics

puppies, animal health
© iStock/levers2007

The world’s largest producers of animal medicines have made a multi-billion dollar pledge towards research that can help reduce the need for antibiotics for animals by 2025.

The $10bn (~€9bn) investment from the 10 members of HealthforAnimals, the global animal medicines association, will help support the development of vaccines and other measures that can better protect animals from disease.

The investment was made alongside 24 other commitments, which included training 100,000 veterinarians, participating in responsible use coalitions and carrying out risk analyses for resistance for every new antibiotic.

The commitments are part of a sector-wide strategy to manage the rise of antibiotic resistance by first reducing the occasions on which the medicines are needed for livestock and pets.

“Antibiotics are the only way to treat a bacterial disease, so we cannot simply reduce antibiotic use without first addressing disease levels,” said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, executive director of HealthforAnimals.

“Instead, our vision is for a world where we reduce the need for antibiotics by improving overall animal health, and we are committed to playing our part in achieving this.”

The Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics sets a target of developing 100 new vaccines for animals by 2025 along with new diagnostic tools that help veterinarians treat diseases earlier and minimise the need for the most powerful, last-resort drugs.

The animal health industry also plans to boost training in responsible use of medicine for veterinarians, as well as forming partnerships to help antibiotics reach underserved markets.

“The commitment by the global  animal health sector to train 100,000 veterinarians by 2025 is a valuable contribution to the fight against antibiotic resistance, recognising that veterinarians are the stewards of animal health,” said Dr. Johnson Chiang, president of the World Veterinary Association (WVA).

“Continuous training is vital to ensure veterinarians have access to the latest tools, knowledge and products that improve animal health and lower the risk of bacterial disease, which helps reduce the need for antibiotics.”

While the primary contributor to antibiotic resistance in people is the use of antibiotics in human medicine, animal health is intrinsically linked through food systems, zoonotic diseases that can pass to people, and drugs that are used by both.

The Roadmap sets out three approaches that can reduce the need for antibiotics in animals, from disease prevention and control, to earlier detection and fast, accurate treatment.

The authors also called for commitments from the public sector and international organisations to support the investment with appropriate policies, regulations and support.

“The animal health sector cannot reduce the need for antibiotics alone. Policymakers should work towards greater regulatory convergence, which will help veterinarians better access products that can reduce the need for antibiotics and help ensure no one is left behind,” added Mr du Marchie Sarvaas.

“Antibiotic resistance is a health emergency that poses a threat to all of us, people and animals included. When the health of animals and people are so intrinsically linked, we need to develop solutions together that tackle the root of the challenge, which is disease.”

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