The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), an organization geared towards developing resolutions in different areas of the animal agriculture industry, recently released a White Paper, “A One Health Approach to Antimicrobial Use & Resistance: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose“. The White Paper addresses antimicrobial use and resistance, and begins to explore methods to resolve these topics. The paper is a summary of presentations from 13 human health, animal health and environmental health scientists and professionals, and the outcome of four interactive sessions with those who attended the 2012 Antibiotics Conference in Columbus, OH.
The topic of NIAA’s paper is much similar to our recent blog post, Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Surround Big Swine Farms in China & US, in which researchers found that the process of resistance genes grouping and moving to other bacteria has greatly developed by the burgeoning use of antibiotics and metals on farms.
Like the researchers from our previous post, NIAA’s paper has similar reasoning for antimicrobial resistance, “Antimicrobial resistance occurs via three mechanisms, each requiring only minor changes in biochemistry: 1) Bacteria may possess enzymes that degrade antibiotics; 2) Bacteria may replace or alter the method through which the antibiotic enters the cell; and 3) Bacteria may alter the cellular target site of the antibiotic.” In a similar vein, the researchers pulled samples from swine farms in China and the US and found the presence of transposase, an enzyme that allows resistant genes to move from one bacterium to the next.
In fact, the issue of animal antibiotics is, as the White Paper puts it, a polarizing issue. The paper admits that antimicrobial resistance is about more than science and evidence, but also directly deals with politics, behavior, economics and conflicting opinions in the overarching health — animal, human and environmental — community.
In another previous blog post, Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny, we discussed how cooperation and communication between manufacturers and regulatory agencies is inadequate. While the FDA has attempted numerous times to standardize the use of antibiotics in livestock, it has proved problematic, as many meat manufacturers and farmers are unwilling to disclose antibiotic use. However, the relationship between the FDA and manufacturers isn’t purely to blame: it is hard to streamline antibiotic use in animals since there is nothing comparable to a national healthcare system for animals, as there is for people. What can be gleaned from these difficulties is that antibiotic use, and subsequent antimicrobial resistance, is indeed a political, behavioral, economic and combative issue.
Because the NIAA believes that animal, human and environmental health are all connected, the White Paper takes a One Health Approach: “This approach would call for all to think in a much larger dimension and work toward, improving and defending the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, other scientific health and environmental professionals, and by promoting strengths in leadership and management to achieve these goals.”
The goal of the “A One Health Approach to Antimicrobial Use & Resistance: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose” Symposium was not to only understand and study the reasoning behind antimicrobial use and resistance, but to identify ways in which scientists and professional can work together and progress. The symposium had many end goals, including:
- To obtain the scientific facts regarding antibiotic use within animal health, human health and environmental health;
- to better understand the “how” and “why” antimicrobial resistance occurs;
- to look at alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture;
- lead and engage participants in open conversations;
- to build relationships with other sectors and gain better understanding of other perspectives;
- to begin to find common ground and formulate a path forward; and
- focus on continuous improvement and commitment to long-term health.
This white paper initiates a launching pad for data-based scientific and objective conversation, and debate among drug manufactures; human and animal health care providers; hospitals and animal feeding operations; health insurance industry, federal and state regulators; legislators and policy makers; and interest and advocacy groups. These conversations will lead towards protecting human and animal health at the lowest cost to society.
Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan
February 25, 2013
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