Antimicrobial resistance: What is it and why it matters to the red meat industry

In April 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its new global report — Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance — which states ‘… this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect everyone.’

The Australian Government and other international governments have already identified antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a high-priority issue. In 2013, consultations were convened jointly by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health (via the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care) to discuss AMR arising from antimicrobial use in animal agriculture and culminated in the Australian One Health Antimicrobial Resistance Colloquium. One Health is an international approach to harmonise antimicrobial prescribing practices and reduce AMR, and to develop and promote prudent use guidelines and antimicrobial stewardship.

The WHO global report reaffirmed the need for data on antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and on the occurrence of AMR in bacteria in livestock. These data are needed to allow comparisons between countries, inform risk assessment, identify areas for intervention and to monitor the success of risk management measures.

The cattle industry has collaborated with the Australian Government and the research sector to commission and fund studies of antimicrobial use and AMR in the industry. A one-day symposium, hosted by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), was held in May 2014, to provided a forum for cattle industry representatives and stakeholders to present the results of their studies and to take a close look at antimicrobial resistance in the cattle industry. The symposium addressed animal management, prevention and control of infectious diseases, antimicrobial use and AMR in the industry, particularly in relation to risks to human health. Risks to human health can be assessed against internationally accepted ratings of antimicrobials based on their importance for use in humans and the likelihood of spread and transfer of genes from animals to humans. Most concern is attached to agents considered critically important for human uses and for which there are no or few alternative treatments. The use of such agents in the livestock industry would attract criticism and risk trade partnerships.

The picture that emerged from this workshop was a good one — with infectious diseases specialist, Professor Peter Collignon concluding:

“In terms of cattle, Australia is doing really well, which is good for trade and human health,” and “Australia is in a position to have the ‘safest meat in the world’.”

Professor Peter Collignon

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Article Date: 19th March 2019

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