Animal health products play an important role in safeguarding public and animal health, and within the veterinarian's toolkit are antibiotics. They are essential to treat bacterial diseases in animals, but they must – like in human medicine – be handled responsibly.
It is vital that antibiotics, like all medicines, are used with care and discrimination to help maintain their effectiveness and limit resistance development, which has been cause for concern across the world.
The European commission requested three of its agencies to look into the 'consumption of antimicrobial agents and occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from humans and food-producing animals'.
"It is vital that antibiotics, like all medicines, are used with care and discrimination to help maintain their effectiveness and limit resistance development"
The report that followed is the first integrated analysis of data from humans, animals and food in Europe, and is the first report jointly published by the European centre for disease prevention and control (ECDC), the European food safety authority (EFSA), and the European medicines agency (EMA).
It looks at data from across European monitoring networks which gather information from the EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The animal health industry in Europe welcomes this report, and fully supports the work behind it.
The study points to a connection between the consumption of antibiotics and the development of resistance in humans as well as in animals. But the correlation between animal consumption of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistance in humans varies and is by and large weak.
The report points to some data limitations which will need to be addressed, such as the need for extra data on antibiotic consumption by animal species. It also shows that the use of antibiotics in animals in Europe is moderate, especially in critically important antibiotics, but improvements still need to be made.
"The correlation found between the use of antibiotics in animals and resistance in animals only reinforces the importance of continuing to promote responsible use of these medicines"
The correlation found between the use of antibiotics in animals and resistance only reinforces the importance of continuing to promote responsible use of these medicines, as well as transparency at the use phase, i.e. transparency on how (many) antibiotics are used on each farm.
The international federation for animal health Europe (IFAH-Europe) is a founding partner and staunch supporter of EPRUMA, the European platform for the responsible use of medicines in animals.
Monitoring, transparency, as well as the promotion of education on what responsible use of antibiotics means, are vital to ensure their continued use in the future to safeguard the health and welfare of animals and public health.
This message combined with good biosecurity, appropriate housing, good nutrition, herd health programmes, vaccination programmes, and all use of antibiotics under the prescription of a veterinarian, is what EPRUMA promotes, along with its motto 'as little as possible, as much as necessary'.
The animal health industry in Europe is fully committed to continuing its work with the agencies involved in this first report. We have worked well with the EMA in their publication each year of the European surveillance of veterinary antimicrobial consumption report, which gathers data on veterinary use of antibiotics.
We must also work together, with the human medicines sector as well, to ensure effective antibiotics continue to be available in the future, as they are vital elements in ensuring animals' health and welfare.