Veterinarians back key recommendations on combating antimicrobial resistance

Controlling use of medicines in animals linked to protecting effectiveness of human drugs

A newborn black angus calf with it's mother

The Commons Health Committee has hit the mark with a report on combating antimicrobial resistance (AMR), says the Canadian Veterinary Association.

That group says the committee report, which aims to preserve the continued effectiveness of human medicines contains useful recommendations and recognizes steps already taken by vets and farm groups.

It also sets out constructive measures the government could take to ensure that the launch of its Pan-Canadian Framework for tackling AMR in December is successful, the CVMA said in a statement.

Those proposals include appointing a champion to lead the AMR prevention campaign within the government as well as among the public.

Also welcome were committee calls for the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop ways to scale up the existing best practices for preventing the spread of AMR. The agency should also expand the existing Canadian Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System to improve the available data on AMR problems in Canada.

These two recommendations are supportive of the stewardship and surveillance initiatives that CVMA and livestock groups have undertaken to reduce AMR through improved antimicrobial stewardship and surveillance in animals, the association said.

Canada supports an international campaign to reduce the use of human crucial medicines in treating livestock and companion animals to try to slow the spread of AMR. Without action, the World Health Organization fears 10 million people could die annually by 2050 from diseases resistant to existing medicines, surpassing the deaths from cancer.

Health Canada says antimicrobials “are an essential tool against infections in both humans and animals, but they are losing their effectiveness more quickly than we are identifying and developing new drugs or other treatments.”

While the committee’s report primarily focuses on human health, “there are clear links to animal health and veterinary medicine,” CVMA said. The Pan-Canadian Framework has “to develop concrete ways to reduce the use of antimicrobials through prudent use.”

Earlier this year CVMA and feed mill operators announced plans to reduce the use of medicine in livestock feeds but to collect the data that shows the progress. This will complement federal rules that allow medicines to be administered to livestock under veterinary supervision and end the importation of antimicrobial drugs to treat sick animals. Feed mills need to be involved so they supply treated feed only when needed.

Duane Landals, CVMA past president, said a lot of work remains on collecting data on the use of medicine in livestock production and educating vets and producers on the new system designed to help prevent the spread of AMR in human medicines.

CVMA is currently leading the creation of practical tools to assist veterinarians in the prudent use of antimicrobials for swine, poultry, beef, dairy, small ruminants and companion animals.

It is also developing a pilot veterinary AMU surveillance initiative that focuses initially on animal feed.

In 2017, CVMA published standards for provincial and territorial veterinary licensing bodies when developing their own regulations, guidelines, or bylaws relating to veterinarians’ professional responsibilities in providing oversight of use of antimicrobials in animals. It includes a call for Health Canada to improve “access to alternative therapies for food animals, such as probiotics, to reduce the use of antimicrobials in food animals.”… proposals include appointing a champion to lead the AMR prevention campaign within the government as well as among the public.

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