“Handle with care”: Vet body issues advice on antibiotic use

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Australia’s lead veterinary body has issued a “handle with care” warning to animal owners over the use of prescribed antibiotics, as health authorities around the world contend with the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Antimicrobial medicines are used in both animals and humans and are essential in the treatment of infections. But excessive or inappropriate use has led to the emergence of resistant bacteria that do not respond to antibiotic treatment and threaten the ability of health authorities worldwide to treat and control common infectious diseases. The World Health Organisation has described AMR as one of the greatest global health challenges the world has ever faced.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) says it has spent years assisting in the fight against the emergence of AMR within Australia, developing robust guidelines and codes of practice for the judicious use of antimicrobials by veterinarians. As a result, Australian animals have much lower levels of antibiotic resistance compared with animals in other countries, but the organisation says that pet and livestock owners have their own role to play in the fight against AMR.

“Veterinarians rely on antimicrobials to treat animals and prevent suffering in pets and livestock, so it is essential that we are all diligent to protect the efficacy of these vital treatments,” AVA President Dr Julia Crawford said.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week in marked in November, and this year the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has released a set of five “only” rules for the responsible handling of antimicrobials by animal owners:

  1. Only use antimicrobials when prescribed by a veterinarian
  2. Only when needed: antimicrobials do not cure every infection!
  3. Only obtain antimicrobials from authorised sources and retailers
  4. Only use the dosage and follow length of treatment and withdrawal period as prescribed
  5. Only use antimicrobials when associated with good animal health care

“Animal owners following these five ‘only’ rules to handle antimicrobials with care will help maintain their efficacy and availability for both human and animal health,” Crawford said.

“Responsible handling of antimicrobials really does not require much of owners, but it can make a world of difference for the future of both animal and human healthcare.”

The AVA has been actively involved in fighting the emergence of antimicrobial resistance for more than 30 years with the development of antibiotic prescribing guidelines, antimicrobial stewardship initiatives, raising community awareness, and as an active participant in the federal government’s National AMR Strategy.

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