Academics lead group to advise government on antimicrobial resistance

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A group led by representatives from veterinary colleges and education associations hopes to influence federal research on antimicrobial use and resistance.

The Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture, created in November 2014, also plans to give the public information on antimicrobial use in agriculture, according to an announcement from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. The group comprises 16 representatives: nine representing North American veterinary colleges, four from agriculture and pharmaceutical industry associations, and one each from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the AAVMC, and the AVMA.

Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, executive director of the AAVMC and a member of the task force, said the group was created in response to the September 2014 creation of the separate federal government Task Force on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which is chaired by the secretaries of agriculture, defense, and health and human services. That federal task force was created by executive order on advice from the President’s Council on Science and Technology. The order also mandates the creation of a related HHS-led presidential advisory council, regulations to require antimicrobial stewardship in human health care industries, and increased restrictions on certain uses of antimicrobials in agriculture.

Dr. Maccabe
Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe
Dr. King
Dr. Lonnie J. King

Dr. Maccabe said that, because the President’s Council report and the executive order describe antimicrobial resistance as an issue of national security and global public health, “I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to respond with the resources that we have.” The task force members in academia and agriculture can respond through their work in education, research, and extension programs, he said.

“For practicing veterinarians, that means promoting stewardship of antibiotics, reducing the use of antibiotics across the board, and seeking alternatives to the use of antibiotics,” he said.

Members of the educators’ task force plan to work with and advise the government task force, Dr. Maccabe said, and a Department of Agriculture undersecretary has indicated to him that input would be welcome.

Dr. Lonnie J. King, chair of the nongovernmental task force and dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the group plans to develop specific recommendations for the federal government following the group’s first few meetings and conference calls. He expects that advice on research will encourage development of new antimicrobials, interventions that reduce the need for antimicrobials, and diagnostics that can detect changes and drug resistance in pathogens.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most important topics in human and veterinary medicine, he said, noting that reports from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have characterized it as a worsening crisis.

The WHO report “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance 2014” states that resistance threatens effective infection prevention and treatment, and the world could enter a post-antimicrobial era in the 21st century. The CDC report “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013” warns of potential catastrophic consequences for inaction on drug resistance.

Dr. Maccabe said factions in human and veterinary medicine have argued whether overuse of antimicrobials in humans or in animals is more responsible for the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria, and he thinks applying the principles of the President’s Council report across medical fields will be more productive than working to assign blame.

“This is a problem we all have—we share together—and we need to respond together, and that’s why the basic principles are to promote stewardship, reduce the use of antibiotics across the board by all users, and find suitable alternatives to the use of antibiotics,” Dr. Maccabe said.

Dr. King expects the task force will gain members and consultants who work in human health care, including representatives from government public health agencies. It is important for veterinary medicine to “step forward” and help address antimicrobial resistance, he said.

“We’re being entrusted with this responsibility, and I think the idea that people recognize us as part of the solutions to these problems is important,” he said. “And we’re not looking backwards and pointing fingers at one another, but we’re looking into the future of how we can work together to resolve this.”

Related JAVMA links:

Administration wants more restraint over antimicrobial use (Nov. 15, 2014)