Being aware of Antimicrobial resistance in the veterinary profession

Posted by Lee on 16/11/2017

We are all aware of the global one health challenge posed by the threat of antimicrobial resistance and the risks that this poses for human and animal health. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) Voice of the Profession survey 2016 showed that antimicrobial resistance was a top three concern for veterinary surgeons and 49% of vets considered it to be their number one animal health and welfare concern. 

The publication in 2016 of the O’Neill report commissioned by the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, examined in detail the challenges of Antimicrobial resistance.  One year on from the report, and working with stakeholders the veterinary profession has played a crucial role in antimicrobial stewardship particularly its use in agriculture.  Sales of antibiotics for UK farm animals are at a record low and evidence based sector specific targets have been launched.

When considering antimicrobial resistance and animals the focus is often placed on animals reared for food.  However, our companion animals can be a real potential source of antimicrobial resistant bacteria.   The very close contact of humans and companion animals makes transfer of resistant bacteria between pets and owners very possible. The prevalence of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) amongst companion animals is well documented.   We must be constantly vigilant and continually maintaining good hygiene as veterinary practices and veterinary staff can act as reservoirs of infections that will infect pets but also veterinary staff may be at risk from pets already colonised with MRSA.

The development of antimicrobial resistance is complex but the unnecessary and improper use of antimicrobials has been a driver.  Within veterinary practices it is vital that responsible use of antimicrobials is embedded within the practice.  There are a variety of resources to help practices create a culture of responsible use with the British Veterinary Association,  British Small Animal Veterinary Association and the British Equine Veterinary Association all providing excellent resources for companion animal practices.  It is also essential that we educate pet owners and the Bella Moss Foundation website has some excellent resources including a fantastic client facing video. The BVA poster that has been produced in collaboration with the BMA, Public Health England, VMD and Antibiotic Guardian is also a fantastic tool to remind owners of the simple facts and can be downloaded from the BVA website

It is essential that all parties associated with animal care are aware of their duties and responsibilities in the fight against antimicrobial resistance with this being reiterated by Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens in a recent blog post.

As well as prudent antimicrobial use it is vital that practices have a robust and utilised infection control policy.   Hand hygiene is an essential part of the infection control and is a simple measure that if done correctly can have a significant impact. 

This is a global one health challenge and it is up to everybody to play their part in combatting this problem.  By acting together and using antimicrobials responsibly combined with infective infection control procedures we can make a difference and help to keep antimicrobials effective. 

Visit the World Health Organisation’s campaign page for downloadable social media posts, animated GIFs and posters.