Australia’s peak veterinary organisation, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is working with human health experts to combat antibiotic resistance and the emergence of superbugs, a rising concern for both human and animal health.
Antibiotic Awareness Week highlights global concerns over the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and the important role veterinarians play in appropriate use of antibiotics to treat animal diseases.
AVA President, Dr Ben Gardiner, said proper care of animals is critical to their health and welfare and antibiotics can be a part of providing the care animals need.
“There are stringent systems in place in Australia for registering antimicrobials for use in food animals, particularly those antimicrobials important to human health.
“Many agricultural industries have changed how they look after animals so they can reduce antibiotic use but there will always be some risk of infection and we need to be able to use antibiotics when needed,” he said.
The AVA said there are some precautions that can be taken to reduce the spread of resistant bugs.
“Australia has very good food safety standards in place for the processing of raw food products but we need to ensure hygienic food preparation from retail purchase to plate, including proper cooking of animal products, to minimise the risk of transfer of bacterial resistance from food to people.
“Another way that antibiotic use in animals could lead to antibiotic resistant infections in humans is through contact with treated animals. So farm workers and owners of animals being treated with antibiotics need to pay particular attention to hygiene during and after handling treated animals.
“But better surveillance systems are needed to learn where the biggest risks are to human health and what actions need to be taken. If we don’t know how big the problem is we can’t tackle it effectively. We need more reliable data and improved genomic techniques offer some real opportunities to trace resistant bacteria so that resources can be correctly applied to improve prevention protocols across human and animal health,” he said.
Dr Gardiner said that veterinarians take their obligation to minimise the chances of the emergence of resistant superbugs very seriously.
“Certain antibiotics aren’t used at all in food animals in Australia, while others are used under very strict guidelines.
“Close collaboration is essential. Veterinary and human health professionals need to continue to work together with governments to help combat this urgent and serious global problem,” Dr Gardiner said.