A focus on animal health and disease prevention within the UK Government’s new cross-departmental antimicrobial resistance (AMR) action plan, launched today (24 January) by Secretary of State for Health the Rt Hon Matt Hancock at the World Economic Forum at Davos, has been warmly welcomed by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance.
The new 5-year National Action Plan was published alongside a longer-term ‘UK AMR 20-year Vision’, which brings together ambitions from human and animal health, environment and food chain sectors.
RUMA chairman Gwyn Jones said that together, the reports underline the 40% reduction in antibiotic use achieved by UK livestock farming since the last strategy was published five years ago. Furthermore, he added, they show the potential the industry has to be a future world leader in responsible use of antibiotics.
He said: “The new 5-year National Action Plan will support our plans to continue progress in reducing, refining or replacing antibiotic use. The chapters on food-producing animals focus on planning ahead to prevent disease wherever possible, keeping livestock healthy and ensuring appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics only where necessary to treat disease and protect animal welfare.
“There is also a strong focus on improving quality of data, a subject very much front of mind in the cattle and sheep sectors in particular at the moment.
“We are very pleased that these areas are already central to the individual sector targets developed by RUMA’s Targets Task Force in 2017. As we progress towards 2020 – when most of the targets need to be achieved – we will continue to see concerted efforts to target and eliminate endemic disease through improved use of screening and vaccines, which will undoubtedly increase animal health nationally,” he explained.
“As a consequence, we anticipate antibiotic use will continue to fall – and the aspiration expressed in the Government plan that the result will be a further 25% reduction between 2016 and 2020 is definitely achievable.”
Mr Jones said the next job would be to support each sector in looking at objectives beyond 2020. “These are likely to focus on maintaining responsible use and continuing to improve underlying heath, farm infrastructure, nutrition, genetics and preventative measures.”
Mr Jones added that he was pleased the narrative around the AMR issue in the UK had moved away from one of blame between veterinary and human healthcare, to a genuine interest in what each other is doing.
“For example, the potential presence of antibiotics and resistance genes in the environment is an area that is of growing concern to both medical and veterinary specialists. We are looking to boost our understanding of and action in this area by recruiting a specialist in environmental science to our Independent Scientific Group in the near future.
“We all need to work together – the risk of antibiotic resistance is a medical, veterinary, environmental, food and business challenge we all share. We are now working far more closely with colleagues in other disciplines and it’s evident there is much benefit to be had.”