Antibiotics are a cornerstone of modern medicine and public health.
Their importance to human and animal health cannot be understated, which is why antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is such an important global threat. When bacteria develop tolerance or resistance to antibiotics, we risk returning to a time when animals – and people – fell seriously ill or even died from simple, treatable infections.
Antibiotics are the only way to treat a bacterial disease. There is currently no alternative.
As the producers of animal medicines and other health products, our industry equips veterinarians with the tools to manage animal disease. Reducing antibiotic use without first tackling disease rates would mean sick animals go untreated, causing unnecessary suffering and mortality while increasing risk of transfer to other animals and people.
However, we can exploit the full spectrum of animal health tools to reduce the need for antibiotics.
By better protecting animals from the threat of disease, identifying health issues earlier and treating them quickly and responsibly, we can decrease disease levels and with it, the need for antibiotics. This requires maximising the long-term and preventative health benefits of tools such as vaccination, nutrition, antiparasitics, biosecurity, disease surveillance, diagnostics, husbandry and other animal health technologies.
Together, these tools can improve the prevention, detection and treatment of animal disease. This is our roadmap to reducing the need for antibiotics.
The ability to manage and control animal disease has profound consequences for human health and development, from ensuring the safety of meat, milk, fish and eggs to reducing the risk to people of bacterial animal-borne diseases. And while the relationship between using antibiotics in animals and growing levels of resistance in people remains complex and not well understood, AMR affects us all.
Our industry has worked on this challenge for many years, and our 2017 Antibiotics Commitment defined our core principles in approaching AMR. Activities we have undertaken in line with these principles can be seen in Section Five of this Roadmap. But we see more opportunities to reduce the need for antibiotics while also improving animal health.