Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the world today. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-resistant bacteria cause about 2 million illnesses and more than 23,000 deaths in the United States every year. Without safe and effective antibiotics, we would face increased difficulties in our ability to treat and prevent many common illnesses, or provide safe and healthy food.
In an effort to address the threat of antibiotic resistance, the White House on Friday released the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (PDF). The action plan outlines a comprehensive federal effort to address this threat, which includes measures to:
- Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections
- Strengthen national “One Health” surveillance efforts
- Advance development and use of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests
- Accelerate basic and applied research and development
- Improve international collaboration and capacities
For this plan to be effective, veterinarians must be an integral part of the process, and we are happy to note that the American Veterinary Medical Association and the veterinary profession are included in the goals and objectives of the plan. The veterinary profession routinely works at the interface between human and animal health, and the AVMA believes that veterinarians are best suited to make medical decisions—including the use of antibiotics in animals—to ensure that public health, animal health and welfare, and food safety are all protected.
We also applaud the White House for taking a “One Health” approach in addressing the threat of antibiotic resistance by incorporating data and expertise from many fields of human and animal health to come up with appropriate solutions.
Providing a safe, healthy food supply is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the AVMA strongly believes that the judicious use of antibiotics in food animals, administered with veterinary oversight, is an essential component of any plan to combat antibiotic-resistance.
Independent of the new action plan, the AVMA is seeking volunteers to serve on its new Task Force on Antimicrobial Use Data Collection in Animal Agriculture. The AVMA is searching for individuals to identify and evaluate methods for the collection of data on antimicrobial use in animal agriculture, provide scientific rationale, consider advantages and disadvantages for data collection, and ascertain the potential role of the veterinary community. Nominations for this task force are due by April 15.
We look forward to working with the federal agencies and other organizations and individuals involved to provide input and guidance on implementing the plan, allowing veterinarians to continue protecting our food supply by providing the best treatment and health care to our nation’s food animals.