February 2, 2017
Reduce, replace, rethink use of antimicrobials in animals — EFSA
Reducing the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals, replacing them with alternatives and rethinking the livestock production system are essential for the future of animal and public health, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently said.
It said limiting their use to the minimum necessary to treat infectious diseases in animals is crucial. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the world's most pressing public health issues today, and the use of antimicrobials in animals contributes to this problem.
Experts from EFSA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have reviewed the measures taken in the EU to reduce antimicrobials use in animals, and concluded that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. According to them, successful strategies follow an integrated, multifaceted approach that takes into account the local livestock production system and involves all relevant stakeholders - from governments to farmers.
"It is clear that strategies that are already available can be implemented immediately and will have a positive impact on levels of antimicrobial resistance. At the same time, there is a need for innovative solutions - we need to find alternative ways to prevent and treat bacterial infections in animals," said EFSA Executive Director Bernhard Url.
Responsible use of antibiotics
EMA's Executive Director Guido Rasi pointed out that there are only a few new antibiotics in the development pipeline, and that those already available should be used responsibly, both in humans and animals.
"Collecting data on AMR and antibiotic consumption is key to putting into place effective measures to control AMR and retain the effectiveness of antimicrobials for the benefit of public and animal health", he said.
Alternatives to antimicrobials that have been shown to improve animal health include vaccines, probiotics, prebiotics, bacteriophages and organic acids.
EFSA stressed that reducing the use of antimicrobials and finding alternatives are not enough. "There is a need to re-think the livestock system by implementing farming practices that prevent the introduction and spread of the disease into farms and by considering alternative farming systems which are viable with reduced use of antimicrobials".