RUMA comment on the report: Case Study of a Health Crisis

RUMA believes the report Case Study of a Health Crisis by a coalition comprising Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Sustain misses a great opportunity to help highlight the importance of both medical and veterinary practitioners working together to help preserve the efficacy of antimicrobials for both human and animal health.

RUMA acknowledges the increased risk of antimicrobial resistance developing from the irresponsible use of antibiotics in human and animal medicine and believes that antibiotics should be used as little as often and as much as necessary. It already produces guidelines for farmers and vets on the responsible use of antibiotics on farms.

The RUMA guidelines stress that antibiotics should not be used as a substitute for good husbandry practices whatever the farming system.

RUMA believes that these guidelines have helped to minimise the levels of antibiotic resistance found in the UK and hopes other countries will adopt similar guidelines for their farmers and vets.

The medical profession too needs to play its part and, for example, learn to resist demands from patients for treatments they know have little or no effect on coughs and colds.

Research commissioned by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and published on 18 November 2011, showed 97% of patients said their GP or nurse put them on a course of antibiotics the last time they asked for a prescription.

Some 20% of adults consulted for the study said they made an appointment to see their doctor for a recent respiratory tract infection, such as a sore throat or flu. Of these, 53% expected to be prescribed antibiotics and 25% said they believed antibiotics worked on most coughs and colds.

The study also found that one in 10 people admitted to keeping leftover antibiotics – a habit which can exacerbate the developing resistance to the drug if individuals decide to treat themselves at a later stage.

While it is possible for resistant bacteria to transfer from humans to animals and animals to humans, examples of this are quite rare despite extensive research in this area. Even rarer are examples which have led to any clinical issues in human medicine.

A full armoury of antibiotics needs to remain available for vets to treat animals to ensure the food produced by the UK’s livestock farmers is as safe as possible – safe food comes from healthy animals and antibiotics are essential to treat bacterial infection in Britain’s farm animals and pets, as they are for people.

RUMA agrees with the coalition’s report that farmers, retailers, consumers, doctors and regulators all need to play our part in ensuring antimicrobials must be used responsibly – that is what the RUMA message is all about.

Notes for editors

  1. For further information contact RUMA secretary John FitzGerald on 01747 860867 or see the RUMA website