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Antimicrobial Resistance Overview (AMR)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been an area of focus during the past two decades as USDA plays a dual role in protecting animal agriculture and public health. And recognizing AMR as a potential and serious threat, USDA's AMR activities focus on:

1. surveillance;
2. research and development; and
3. education, extension and outreach.

These activities help determine patterns of antibiotic use in food producing animals; monitor antibiotic drug susceptibilities in food animals, meat and poultry; and develop mitigations to reduce AMR associated with food producing animals and their production environments. The Collective Antimicrobial Resistance Ecosystem diagram (PDF, 54.1 KB), shows how human and animal ecosystems are interconnected under the "One Health" concept. Detecting and controlling antibiotic resistance requires the adoption of a "One-Health" approach to disease surveillance that recognizes that resistance can arise in humans, animals and the environment.

USDA Activities

In May 2012, USDA sponsored a three-day Antibiotic Resistance Workshop to assess steps that could be taken to address the issue of antibiotic use and resistance. This workshop with stakeholders, Federal partners and USDA agency staff focused on reviewing current antibiotic use and resistance monitoring, management practices to reduce antibiotic resistance and alternatives to the use of antibiotics to treat and prevent diseases or to enhance production in food animals. This workshop also identified important knowledge, technology and data gaps in these areas.

The findings and gaps identified in this workshop were used to help develop the USDA Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Action Plan (PDF, 322 KB) which summarizes ongoing activities as well as articulates USDA's vision for an integrated plan which would enhance USDA efforts to address AMR.

Role of USDA and Partner Agencies

USDA is uniquely positioned to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge about AMR, specifically regarding the use of antimicrobials in animal and public health. Because USDA plays a dual role in the protection of animal agriculture and human health -- it relies on sound science and evidence-based approaches in its decision-making.

An example of collaboration with federal partners is the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) established in 1996 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and USDA. The NARMS program monitors changes in antimicrobial drug susceptibilities of selected enteric bacterial organisms in humans, animals, and retail meats. The system is intended to provide meaningful data to help identify antimicrobial drug resistance in humans and animals, and to provide timely updates to veterinarians and physicians on patterns of resistance. It is part of the overall federal strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance that fulfills the need for a national surveillance program to monitor resistance among foodborne pathogens in humans and animals. USDA also collaborates with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Through this collaboration, USDA also participates in the Interagency Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance and conducts activities in support of the Taskforce's Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.