The human and animal health communities recently celebrated World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Did you know that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) plays an important role in the conversation about antibiotic use? We gather real-world data on the use of antimicrobial agents on U.S. farms – and you, the producers, can help us with our efforts.
Why is this topic so vital? Both people and animals benefit from using antimicrobials to fight illness. However, antibiotics must be used responsibly to prevent survival of resistant strains. If resistance grows, there will be fewer effective antimicrobials for use. When it comes to animal health, veterinarians must decide what antibiotics are appropriate to use, when, and for how long to help the animal recover from illness but also prevent against resistance.
Every year, APHIS leads studies and surveys that gather information about animals and animal health on farms throughout our country. We do at least one species-specific study each year, and last year we started a series of surveys and studies on the topic of antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance that will last for several years.
These studies help us all better understand the big picture of how, when and why antimicrobials are being used on U.S. farms. For instance, we recently completed a survey on cattle feedlots and swine operations to understand how antimicrobials were used during 2016 – and we will repeat the study in 2018. This will help us see how things changed based on new rules on veterinary use of antimicrobials that took effect on January 1, 2017. The results will help us understand what is being done well and understand where we need to improve through education.
We plan to continue doing antimicrobial-specific surveys every two years, but we will also incorporate antimicrobial data collection into our species-specific studies, beginning with our current beef cow-calf study. We plan to do longer-term studies as well, where we go back to the participating farms several times over a 3-5 year period and analyze repeated biological samples collected from animals and pen floors. Together, these elements will help us see the big picture of antimicrobial use and resistance at the same time, aid decisions about how best to prevent resistance in the future, and ensure we are good stewards of antibiotics.
If you are invited to participate in any of APHIS’ animal health studies, we encourage you to take part. Having a broad range of producers participate strengthens the studies. We can’t get the true picture without participation!