Antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use in companion animals: the current knowledge gap and the approach to fill it
The World Health Organization states this without hesitation: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and the rise of multi-resistant bacteria is one of the most important threats to public health world- wide. In addition, it is an issue that needs to be addressed in the context of Public Health, due to the presence of AMR in both animals and humans living in the same environment. For this reason, AMR surveillance and control programmes for zo- onotic bacteria isolated from production animals and their environment have been developed for almost a decade. These programmes have led to a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics in primary production, with no negative impact on productivity or profitability.
With regard to pet-related AMR, there is a large gap in available knowledge and information and few countries have specific control programmes in place. It is noteworthy that to date, Antimicrobial Use (AMU) in companion animals is not included in the annual reports of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This lack of information raises concerns about the impact that the development of AMR in companion animals may have on public health, due to their close contact with their owners. An additional concern is the use of antibiotics in companion animals intended for human use when and if deemed necessary by the veterinary clinician.
What can be done? At this stage, a major effort is underway in the European Union. This is the development of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance network in Veterinary medicine (EARS-Vet), which is concerned with coordinating the collection of data related to AMR and antibiotic use in European States. During the pilot phase, the collection of AMR data from dogs and cats will involve samples from cases of urinary tract, skin and ear infections caused by the bacterial species Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius and Staphylococcus aureus. It is therefore expected that in the near future we will have a clearer picture in our country regarding the antibiotic resistance of important pathogenic strains that the clinical veterinarian is called upon to treat. The participation of private colleagues (both those practicing clinical practice and those involved in laboratory diagnostics) in the collection of AMR data is particularly important, will determine the success of any relevant project and can lead to both the improvement of services provided through an evidence-based therapeutic approach and the promotion of the role of the companion animal veterinarian in the defence of public health.
School of Veterinary Medicine University of Thessaly