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To Keep Antibiotics Effective, A Coordinated Global Effort Is Needed

Jul 28, 2015

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Antimicrobial resistance is a critical public health challenge. The use of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in food animal production is widespread and projected to rise significantly in the coming years as food animal production and the demand for animal products increase worldwide. According to leading health agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), the non-human use of antimicrobials, including those used in food animal production, is linked to antibiotic-resistant infections and deaths in humans.

In the face of this problem, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in collaboration with experts in the fields of health policy, food production, and public health are advocating for a One Health approach, which emphasizes the connections among the health of humans, animals, and the environment, as a way to address antibiotic resistance in an integrated manner.

Published in the Summer 2015 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, a paper resulting from this collaboration suggests that despite a range of regulatory attempts at national and regional levels, variations in implementation, an absence of international response guidelines, and gaps in global coordination remain. The authors write, “There is a lack of synchronization among global standards, implementation, enforcement, and monitoring around the use of antibiotics in food animal production. To keep these life-saving drugs effective, the planning and management of antibiotics must involve a One Health approach.”

This approach is important to address the current landscape because it “holds the promise of collaboration across multiple disciplines, including doctors, veterinarians, food safety professionals, and environmental health experts.” In addition to interdisciplinary actors, a One Health approach includes interdisciplinary interventions including integrated surveillance data collection, monitoring and enforcement, research, technical assistance, and financing under the umbrella of an international agreement.

According to Center for a Livable Future’s Keeve Nachman, PhD, an author on the study, these components are essential for success. “Given the scope of the problem and the number of countries, professions, and practices involved in global food production, a coordinated effort is critical for preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics.” 

"An Integrated Systems Approach is Needed to Ensure the Sustainability of Antibiotic Effectiveness for Both Humans and Animals,” was written by Anthony D. So, Tejen A. Shah, Steven Roach, Yoke Ling Chee, and Keeve E. Nachman.