G7 vows to combat antibiotics resistance, but animal health groups urge caution

At the G7 summit in Germany last week, world leaders vowed to invest in research aimed at halting the rise of antibiotic-resistant illnesses. The event, which drew President Obama and other world leaders to the scenic Bavarian Alps, placed the antibiotics issue on a menu of health priorities, which also included combating neglected tropical diseases and eliminating Ebola.

During the summit, G7 leaders vowed support for the recently released World Health Organization (WHO) global action plan on antimicrobial resistance. The WHO's plan lays out 5 strategic objectives, including improved surveillance and research of antibiotic-resistant bugs, optimizing antibiotics use, and reducing infection rates.

The G7 commitment drew mixed reactions from animal health advocates, including HealthforAnimals, which expressed concern that an overreaction to the problem of antibiotic resistance could make it difficult for veterinarians to fight infections that are common in farm and companion animals. The organization (formerly the International Federation for Animal Health) pointed out that antibiotics are particularly important in food production, where they are necessary for fighting inflammatory conditions in livestock such as mastitis and lameness. HealthforAnimals urged G7 leaders to promote collaborations between human health and animal health experts aimed at developing innovative solutions to antibiotic resistance.

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, HealthforAnimals executive director

"Effective and targeted use of antibiotics will be an essential part of any strategy to turn back the tide of infectious disease and increased resistance. In addition to all stakeholders involved adopting measures to ensure appropriate and responsible use, there is also a need for a regulatory environment which stimulates innovation," said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, the executive director of HealthforAnimals, in a press release.

The summit was held a few days after the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship, where more than 150 companies and animal-health stakeholders released plans for combating antibiotic resistance. Eli Lilly ($LLY), Merck ($MRK), and Zoetis ($ZTS) were among the companies that participated. In conjunction with that event, the FDA released its final rule on the use of antibiotics in food animals, which includes instructions for veterinarians on prescribing the drugs.

- here's the HealthforAnimals release
- access the WHO action plan here