Antibiotics have dramatically improved human and animal health since the discovery of penicillin early last century. But in recent years, there’s growing concern the effectiveness in treating infection with antibiotics is threatened by increasing drug-resistant bacteria.
A high-profile U.S. task force has released a report on strategies to deal with antibiotic resistance in production agriculture. Dr. Alastair Cribb, dean of the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, is a member of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities/Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture.
The task force, comprised of leaders from North American agriculture and veterinary colleges, as well as representatives from the production animal agriculture community and the pharmaceutical industry, was created last fall to study the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both human and veterinary medicine. It was created in response to President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report on antimicrobial resistance.
A growing public health concern
“Antimicrobial resistance is a growing public health concern,” says Cribb. “We need to work together to identify approaches to preventing or reducing resistance, without preventing appropriate use in either veterinary or human medicine.”
The report outlines a strategy for helping to reduce the contributions of antimicrobials used in veterinary medicine to the antimicrobial resistance problem — a problem the Obama administration has termed a national security priority.
“It was a pleasure to serve on this task force,” says Cribb. “A concerted, international approach will be required to have an impact on antimicrobial resistance, so opportunities such as this to enhance collaboration are really important. We will continue to work with our colleagues to support these efforts.”
Recruiting volunteers from veterinary schools
The report’s agenda is designed to explore and describe the nature and implications of the problem and educate producers, health-care providers and the public about best practices. It also calls for a series of summits to elevate the issue of antibiotic resistance to the top of the national agenda.
“We know that antibiotic resistance is biologically complex and poorly understood,” said Dr. Lonnie King, a former dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and former senior Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who co-chaired the task force. “We also know that the scope and scale of the problem threatens human, animal and environmental health, nationally and globally. The committee has accomplished some important work, but now we need to take action.”
As one of its first steps, the task force is recruiting volunteers from U.S. and Canadian veterinary schools to develop a set of core competencies that students of varying educational levels should possess.