Veterinarians set antibiotic goal for animals

New Zealand Inc will not need antibiotics for the maintenance of animal health and wellness by 2030, says New Zealand Veterinary Association President Dr Steve Merchant.

Around 70 per cent of human infectious diseases, including meningitis, anthrax and salmonellosis (food poisoning) have come from animals.

Because levels of resistance to antibiotics are sharply increasing worldwide, Dr Merchant said, “we want animals and, by extension, humans to enter the ‘post-antibiotic’ era as safely as possible.”

This was a significant undertaking, requiring considerable teamwork and commitment from the veterinary profession, working with the medical, scientific, government and relevant primary industry sectors.

“Given the wide acceptance that the future for antibiotics is limited, and the close links between animals, humans and the environment we share, achieving this goal is essential,” Dr Merchant said.

“New Zealand is well suited to this challenge; given our size, proximity of the various specialities and relevant industry sectors, and already low use of antibiotics.”

Examples include:

* Zero use of antibiotics in aquaculture

* New Zealand is the world’s third lowest user of antibiotics on animals

* Increasing focus on animal ‘wellness’

* New Zealand’s grass-based farm management systems.

“These represent a sound platform, and veterinarians’ role at the intersection of animal life, human life and the environment makes ours a logical profession to be taking a lead,” Dr Merchant said.

“Achieving this goal will require a concerted international collaborative effort involving attitudinal and behavioural change across government, research, human health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, and a range of associated industries – as well as the public.”

Veterinarians will use and advocate for careful antibacterial management and monitoring based on responsible use of existing antibiotics, as they work with their industry partners to test and develop the necessary alternatives.

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