Veterinarians will play a key role in combatting the global risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) according to a new report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The report notes that the OIE participates in a tripartite partnership with the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in addressing the AMR issue. Last year, the WHO , in collaboration with those partners, issued a Global Action Plan on AMR, focusing on a “One Health” approach emphasizing the interconnectedness of the health of humans, animals and ecosystems.

The OIE’s AMR Strategy, released in late November 2016, details four objectives and describes workplans associated with each objective. The objectives include:

·         Improving awareness and understanding.

·         Strengthening knowledge through surveillance and research.

·         Supporting good governance and capacity building.

·         Encouraging the implementation of international standards.

The report notes that availability and use of antimicrobial medicines has transformed the practice of human and animal medicine. Preserving the efficacy of these life-saving medications, as well as their availability for both human and veterinary use, is therefore essential to preserve our future.

AMR, the authors write, refers to microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, which have acquired resistance to antimicrobial treatment. AMR may occur naturally as organisms adapt to their environments. “However, overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents in humans, animals and plants sectors has dramatically accelerated the emergence of AMR.”

Improving awareness and understanding

Veterinary Services play a critical role in building awareness of AMR and encouraging the prudent use and management of antimicrobial medicines in animals, the authors say. The workplan addressing this objective includes development of targeted communications and materials designed to improve understanding and encourage reduced AMR use. Much of this effort should focus on veterinary organizations and professional development for veterinarians, who will oversee the responsible and ethical use of antimicrobial products in animals.

Strengthening knowledge through surveillance and research

The OIE recommends expansion of international monitoring and surveillance systems to detect and report antimicrobial use and the emergence of organisms with AMR characteristics. The workplan also includes building and maintaining a database on the use of antimicrobial agents in food-producing and companion animals, with associated analysis and annual reporting. The authors also encourage the development and uptake of new tools, products and methodologies that will reduce the dependence of animal sectors on antimicrobials.

Supporting good governance and capacity building

Expansion of veterinary services will play a key role in addressing AMR, and the workplan under this objective includes:

·         Provide assistance and leadership for development and implementation of plans and policies governing the use of antimicrobials in animals, promoting the “One Health” approach.

·         Provide tools and guidance to assist Member Countries in their AMR risk-assessment initiatives associated with antimicrobial agents and use in animals.

·         Work alongside Member Countries to ensure Veterinary Services have the capacity to implement OIE standards.

·         Support Member Countries to develop and modernize legislation governing the manufacture, marketing authorization, importation, distribution and use of veterinary products.

·         Ensure that well-trained veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals are at the forefront of national and regional efforts to improve animal health and welfare and the stewardship of antimicrobial products.

Encouraging the implementation of international standards

OIE standards and guidelines, according to the authors, reflect the best available science and provide a global benchmark for consistent regulation, use, surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobials, and provide a framework to achieve consistent outcomes using equivalent methodologies adapted to local contexts.

The workplan calls for support of member countries in their efforts to implement OIE international standards, dissemination and adoption of recommendations in the OIE List of Antimicrobials of Veterinary Importance and continued collaboration with WHO and FAO to support the development of a comprehensive and aligned framework of international standards and guidelines across human health, animal health, agriculture and the food chain.

Read the full report from the OIE.