Australian Veterinary Antimicrobial Stewardship

In Australia, the animal industries are responsible for maintaining the health, welfare and productivity of the livestock in their care and ensuring safe
food products for human consumption. Access to antimicrobials are an important part of maintaining this responsibility, however they must be used without detriment to human, animal or plant health. Use of antimicrobials may result in the development of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria, which subsequently reduces the efficacy of antimicrobials to treat infection. The development of AMR is a threat to managing infections in animals and humans, however access to the current range of antimicrobials needs to be preserved so that treatments remain available for injured or ill people and animals. Historical Australian initiatives have resulted in very low levels of AMR bacteria from food animals, however, further progress is needed to ensure this situation remains and Australian industries are afforded relevant opportunities to capitalise on this status.

Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) is the term used to describe all practices that aim to maintain the clinical efficacy of antimicrobials through optimising the 5R principles – Responsibility, Reduce, Refine, Replace, Review. These principles underpin activities that minimise disease incidence and then if disease occurs that requires antimicrobial treatment, that they are used optimally i.e. the right drug, at the right time, at the right dose, for the right duration using the right route of administration. Therefore, AMS offers a sound foundation for Australian animal industries to contribute to minimising the incidence of resistance.

The Australian red meat, dairy, pork and poultry industries have formed strong links to share information, opportunities and experiences related to progressing AMS in Australian animal industries. They recently collaborated on the preparation of the “Antimicrobial Stewardship in Australian livestock Industries report”1 and the establishment of the “Australian Veterinary Antimicrobial Stewardship” conference in November 2018. Since that conference, there has been discussion on how to better collaborate on AMS research, development and extension (RD&E) activities of mutual interest and benefit. To this end, the ‘Animal Industries’ Antimicrobial Stewardship Research, Development and Extension Strategy’ (AIAS) has been produced. This strategy is focussed on prioritising RD&E that enhances AMS activities, rather than a sole focus on reduction in AMR or AMU, which are already comparatively low internationally.

The AIAS has been developed primarily to meet the needs of Australia’s food animal industries, but will also benefit the implementation of Australia’s National AMR Strategy2 and The Australian Animal Sector National Antimicrobial Resistance Plan3. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, and AMR management experts were also consulted during the development of the strategy to ensure the AIAS fit within national and international AMR management initiatives and linked to biosecurity initiatives that impact AMU.

Accordingly, the Animal Industries’ Antimicrobial Stewardship RD&E Strategy (AIAS) aims to:

‘Create a collaborative mechanism for animal industries to identify common research, development and extension (RD&E) priorities for the effective monitoring of antimicrobial use (AMU) and surveillance of AMR to inform stewardship actions that meet Australia’s animal health and market access needs, without impacting food safety or human health.’

Through this strategy, animal industries could maintain access to antimicrobials provided their use was:

  • Reviewed using evidence-based science
  • Responsible and appropriately managed the risks of AMR development
  • Continuously refined and/or reduced
  • Managing the risk of having to replace effective antimicrobials with less effective antimicrobials

This Strategy sets out the framework and how it was used to identify priority AMU and AMR R&D and how those outputs feed up through the logic to enhance AMS, through extension.