The management of risk arising from the use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine in EU/EEA countries – a review

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Abstract

Antimicrobials are essential medicines for the treatment of many microbial infections in humans and animals. Only a small number of antimicrobial agents with new mechanisms of action have been authorized in recent years for use in either humans or animals. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) arising from the use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicine is a concern for public health due to the detection of increasing levels of resistance in foodborne zoonotic bacteria, particularly gram-negative bacteria, and due to the detection of determinants of resistance such as Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL) in bacteria from animals and in foodstuffs of animal origin. The importance and the extent of the emergence and spread of AMR from animals to humans has yet to be quantified. Likewise, the relative contribution that the use of antimicrobial agents in animals makes to the overall risk to human from AMR is currently a subject of debate that can only be resolved through further research. Nevertheless, risk managers have agreed that the impact on public health of the use of antimicrobials in animals should be minimized as far as possible and a variety of measures have been introduced by different authorities in the EU to achieve this objective. This article reviews a range of measures that have been implemented within European countries to reduce the occurrence and the risk of transmission of AMR to humans following the use of antimicrobial agents in animals and briefly describes some of the alternatives to the use of antimicrobial agents that are being developed.

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