Last week, the White House released a highly anticipated report on combating antibiotic resistance from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The report examines the issue of antibiotic resistance and makes several recommendations including:

  • Strong federal leadership to combat resistance;
  • Increased surveillance;
  • Research into resistance;
  • Clinical trials for new antibiotics;
  • Economic incentive to produce new antibiotics;
  • Increased stewardship in healthcare settings;
  • Limiting use in animal agriculture of antibiotics important in humans particularly for growth promotion purposes;
  • Ensure effective international collaboration

Diving Deeper on Antibiotics Used in Animal Production

Of course for AMI and many others it was the second to last point above that was of most interest. It is encouraging that the recommendations echo what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveyed last year — that you cannot attack a complex problem in a simple manner and that we must employ a multi-faceted solution. The PCAST report and CDC note, the greatest threat to public health is the overuse of antibiotics in humans, though the agriculture industry needs to ensure judicious use of antibiotics as well.

We agree with the report that the steps the FDA has taken to phase out of antibiotics to promote growth and to increase veterinary oversight are steps in the right direction. It is encouraging that all 26 companies that make animal health products have pledged to comply with this FDA policy, which is consistent with protecting both human and animal health.

It was particularly interesting to see the report specifically address criticism that the FDA policy will be easy to work around by farmers using antibiotics once classified for growth promotion for prevention uses instead. But as the report says,

“For example, some have expressed concern that the FDA guidances are insufficient because current antibiotic usage intended for growth promotion might be redesignated as intended for disease prevention. We note, however, that such a designation by veterinarians would be unethical and illegal.”

Additional Research Key

As the report says, much more needs to be learned about how resistance is being developed and spread through various channels. We agree that additional research and data collection is needed to help ensure that the correct antibiotics are used in the correct circumstances in both human and animal medicine. Better surveillance on both the human and animal side will allow us to better understand exactly what antibiotics are used in different circumstances to help us determine the sources of resistance. AMI also supports the recommendation in the report of developing alternatives to antibiotic use in agriculture.

The PCAST report, similar to CDC’s report last year takes a rational, science based look to the issue that is greatly needed to address the serious concerns of antibiotic resistance in all populations. With so many myths still widely shared about antibiotic use in animals, a view of the big picture provides the best approach to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

 

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