Animal health groups urge caution in antibiotics restrictions ahead of G7 confab

Pigs

The agenda for the G7 summit in Japan starting May 26 includes a discussion of antibiotics resistance. It’s part of a larger dialogue that was planned, in the wake of the Ebola crisis, to examine ideas for strengthening the response to public health crisis. But as the world’s leaders were preparing to gather for the Ise-Shima event, some members of the animal health industry urged caution.

The global trade group HealthforAnimals estimates that 75% of emerging infectious diseases start in animals. That’s why the group is among those fighting against the idea that antibiotics should be banned in farm animals.

“Antibiotics used on an ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary’ basis will continue to provide real benefits to people and animals across the world,” said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, executive director of the global trade group HealthforAnimals in a statement released before the G7 summit. He warned, however, that an outright ban on antibiotics could result in “serious animal health and welfare issues.”

The summit came just one week after the publication of the final installment of the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which was commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014. The report estimates that failing to address the problem of antibiotics resistance will result in a cumulative loss of $100 trillion, according to FG Insight. It specifically points to the U.S. agriculture industry as a major culprit, citing an estimate that 70% of antibiotics made for human use are sold for treating animals.

A few days before the summit, the BBC fueled the fire of criticism against the agriculture industry by airing a program called “Antibiotic Crisis.” It featured patients who had suffered from untreatable illnesses, and estimated that antibiotics resistance would cause the death of 80,000 people in the U.K. alone over the next 20 years.

A group called Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) responded to the program by urging world leaders to adopt a “One Health” approach to combating antibiotics resistance. Veterinarians and human health professionals should work together, the group said, to find alternatives to antibiotics and to refine practices around using the medications.

HealthforAnimals also encouraged a One Health approach. “There is a need to agree on successful strategies to keep existing antibiotics working for future generations,” du Marchie Sarvaas said. “Greater collaboration between the human and animal sectors will help to secure this.”

- read more about the O’Neill report at FG Insight
- get more on the BBC report here

Related articles:
Global group says Zika highlights need for research collaborations across specialties
Vaccines are 'biggest breakthrough' in animal health: Report
International health groups vow renewed effort to eradicate rabies