Antimicrobial is the general term for any compound used for treatment or prevention of infections with a direct action on micro-organisms.
Antimicrobials include a wide range of compounds, such as anti-bacterials, anti-virals, anti-fungals and antiprotozoals. However, despite generally using the broader term antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the UK Government, the European Union, the World Health Organization (WHO) and The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are primarily concerned about the efficacy of antibiotics to treat humans and whether the use of antibiotics in animals increases the risk of untreatable resistant bacterial infections in humans. For this reason, this section focuses on antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance is the ability of a micro-organism to grow or survive in the presence of an antibiotic at levels that are usually sufficient to inhibit or kill microorganisms of the same species. Antibiotic resistance is important to human and animal health because, as the UK’s former Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said in her annual report published in March 2013: “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to modern health and we face a future without cures for infection if antibiotics are not used responsibly”.
In May 2016 the ‘Review Of Antimicrobial Resistance’ chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill was published. This has had a significant influence on the UK Government approach to AMR as a One Health issue. RUMA welcomed the review when it was published – and the subsequent Government response later that year – by setting up a Targets Task Force. This harnessed the expertise of a leading farmer and veterinary surgeon from each sector, alongside the leadership and facilitation of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Food Standards Agency, Red Tractor assurance, the British Veterinary Association and the National Office for Animal Health, to identify the current position in terms of antibiotic use in each sector, and determine meaningful targets for the future.
This section of the website hosts a set of guidelines and useful information on antibiotic stewardship and responsible use.