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Putting Antibiotic Stewardship into Action

Posted by Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics in Food and Nutrition
Jun 04, 2015

The White House on June 2 convened a national forum to seek action on the problem of anti-microbial resistance. The development of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the last century, and has helped to save millions of lives. But their overuse or misuse has resulted in the rise of bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

The White House has unveiled a National Action Plan designed to advance the appropriate use of antibiotics in food animals as well as promote collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health. This is consistent with a “One Health” approach that embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. USDA, which helped develop the National Action Plan, was pleased to join our many Federal partners and continue our work with the agriculture industry at the forum.

USDA continues to research alternatives to antibiotics, including vaccines, to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics and develop new tools to prevent and treat diseases that impact the health, welfare, and production of livestock, poultry and fish.

For example, recent findings by USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists suggest that lysozyme, an enzyme used in many foods and beverages can serve as a natural alternative to antibiotics used to improve feed efficiency and growth in pigs.

And through our shared goal, USDA will continue working with the agriculture industry to optimize stewardship of antibiotics in food animals.  

In addition, collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health are being promoted to support a one health approach to the issue of antimicrobial resistance.  

There are a number of entities in the agriculture sector that are trying to address antibiotic stewardship. Specifically,

Food producers and retailers are taking actions such as voluntarily phasing out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, providing responsible use guidelines to suppliers from whom they purchase meat, and funding research for alternative management practices that reduce the need for antibiotics.  Some store owners are committing to purchase from suppliers who already have or are phasing out the use of medically important antibiotics or that can provide them with antibiotic-free meat and poultry.

Animal pharmaceutical companies are committed to align their medically important antibiotic products with FDA’s guidance, including removing growth promotion uses and changing marketing status to require veterinary oversight of product use.  Further, the companies investing in vaccines, best management practices, on-farm hygiene, and proper nutritional innovations that will benefit animal health while lessening the reliance on traditional antibiotics.

Animal feed industry organizations and livestock and poultry farmers are educating producers and ranchers about the FDA labeling changes that will bring all feed uses of medically important antibiotics under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.  These educational campaigns are helping to make farmers aware of antimicrobial stewardship programs and keeping them updated on best practices for antimicrobial use and policy.

Livestock and poultry farmers are conducting education and outreach campaigns to make farmers aware of antibiotic stewardship programs and keeping them updated on best practices for antibiotic use and policy.

Veterinary, animal agriculture, and meat associations are developing and updating species-specific judicious use guidelines, conducting education campaigns on judicious use, and encouraging data collection efforts. The organizations are committed to magnifying education outreach efforts through their vast networks by distributing educational material, holding symposiums to bring those in public health and agriculture together, and conducting regional workshops on new antibiotic use and veterinary oversight policies.

And, general agriculture, food system non-government organizations are conducting education and outreach and developing standards with an accompanying verification program for the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food producing animals.

Through this multidisciplinary approach, USDA’s objective remains to preserve, maintain or reduce health risks to animals, humans, the environment and society.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition