“We all have the same end goal, to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria,” says Dr. Eric Moore, Norbrook, Inc., co-chair of the 6th annual Antibiotic Symposium hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture. “The Symposium is a conduit for the industry and others to find collaborative solutions through continued dialogue about antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance.” The Symposium takes place November 1-3, just two months before the new VFD regulations go into effect.

“All of us who are committed to maintaining a safe and affordable food supply are interested and concerned about this issue and we all continue to learn,” agrees co-chair Dr. Steve Solomon, Global Public Health Consulting. “The Symposium continues to evolve every year. This is a rapidly developing topic and the more we expand perspectives, the more we are confronted by its complexity. From better information, we get better solutions.”  Solomon says there is progress being made collaboratively and an open and candid dialog from many different perspectives is what makes the NIAA Symposium unique.

“The guiding principle behind NIAA’s approach is that this Symposium is designed to be a non-judgmental forum,” says Solomon.  “There is respect for each point of view and an understanding that all concerns and objectives need to be heard in order to make progress. The idea is for attendees to come, listen, and see where we can find common ground.” Also, understanding how our perspectives differ is as important as recognizing where we all agree.   Participants and presenters will be from across animal agriculture, public health and governmental regulatory agencies.

This year’s theme, Antibiotic Use – Working Together for Better Solutions emphasizes exchanging information, and giving the broadest spectrum of stakeholders a place to be heard and participate in the on-going discussion. In addition to industry leaders, retailers, processors, and producers, and multiple regulatory agencies, including FDA, USDA, and CDC will be attending the Symposium and participating in discussions.  Both participants and agency reps will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and to listen to a diversity of voices giving valuable feedback.

As scientists, media and consumers have expressed increasing concern about antimicrobial resistance, solutions including voluntary withdrawal of growth promotion-uses of antibiotics and the veterinary feed directive have been implemented, surveys and educational programs have been conducted and various metrics have been proposed.
"There are more issues than solutions,” says Moore. Both Moore and Solomon say there is no simple solution, though some existing approaches are encouraging.  “Each approach has some merit, but none of them are the whole answer,” says Solomon. “This is not something that can be solved overnight.”

Another piece of the puzzle is the on-going discussion on metrics, or measurements, which may be a tool for assessing how to use antibiotics appropriately. “In our continued work on the subject, trying to understand metrics just shows how complex the issue is,” says Moore. “Some progress has been made with metrics, but there is a lot more we need to understand as we proceed. Just as there are not perfect solutions, there are no ideal metrics.” The Symposium’s focus will be on stewardship, collaboration among disciplines and sectors and reflecting on discussions and lessons from previous roundtables and symposia. Solomon says presenters will concentrate on “what we know and what we still need to learn, how to act on what we know and what type of additional information we’ll all need to help us do a better job of addressing this problem.”

The key to this year’s Symposium is to bring together as many voices and perspectives as possible. “The more stakeholders at the table finding common ground, the more diverse voices speaking together saying the same things, the more powerful the message will be to decision makers,” says Moore. Those decision makers will also be sitting at the same table.

The 2016 NIAA Antibiotics Symposium will be held in Herndon, Virginia. NIAA’s website, www.animalagriculture.org, has information on presenters, agenda and registration.