Changing antimicrobial use on farms

Researchers from the Bristol Veterinary School at the University of Bristol are leading the way to inspire and change antimicrobial (AM) use on farms and in veterinary prescribing practices.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global threat, with an estimated seven hundred thousand people dying from resistant infections every year. AMR is a crucial example of the importance of the One Health concept, which recognises that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment. People share many of the same health problems as animals. For example they both suffer from age related diseases and infections, such as pneumonia.

The University of Bristol reports that AMR research at the Bristol Vet School is led by the AMR Force and major questions the group are addressing include:

  • Can we impact the way veterinarians prescribe medicines?
  • Can we encourage responsible medicines use by veterinarians by using medicines auditing and benchmarking?
  • Can we assist in developing medicines use policies with policy makers, veterinarians and farmers (using participatory or other approaches)?
  • Does reducing antimicrobial use impact patterns of resistance?
  • How can we utilise diagnostic tests more effectively to better target prescribing?
  • Can we find alternatives to antimicrobials to prevent and control disease?
  • How do microbes and AMR genes cycle in the environment?

Dr Kristen Reyher, Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science, who leads the AMR Force, said “The AMR Force is working closely with farmers, veterinarians, food retailers and government bodies to encourage responsible use of antimicrobials. Farmers and veterinarians together working alongside other advisors and responding to pressure from the public as well as legislation can influence change in the use of antimicrobials in livestock and improve the system of farming for the benefit of all animals and humanity.”

David Barrett, Professor of Bovine Medicine, Production and Reproduction at the University’s Vet School, said “Reduction of critically important antimicrobials is something the University’s Vet School has been working hard on, and over the past six years our farm animal practice has reduced prescribing of these critical antimicrobials, using none in recent years.”

Andrea Turner, Farm Animal Veterinary Surgeon at Langford Vets, said “At Bristol, we have been working closely with farmers to maximise care of their animals. This has involved taking an in-depth look at all areas of the farm – from the environment to working routines and cleanliness at all levels – because the need for antibiotics on farms can be reduced by excellent management practices.”

The overall efforts of the AMR Force ‘”A force for change towards responsible use of antimicrobials'” won the University of Bristol’s Vice-Chancellor’s Impact award in the Health and Wellbeing category last year.

The AMR Force members have contributed to a number of initiatives including leading the British Cattle Veterinary Association and the British Veterinary Association Medicines Committees, developing a major retailer’s antimicrobial stewardship policy using participatory methods along with dairy farmers, training veterinarians and farmers across a number of veterinary practices on responsible antimicrobial use, and informing industry and legislative bodies including the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and the Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA).

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