PIJAC AMR Challenge
The pet industry must work together to address the growing concerns around antimicrobial resistant germs.
Late last month in New York City, I attended the kick-off for the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Diagnostic (AMR) Challenge, a year-long initiative aimed at addressing the growing threat of antimicrobial resistant germs to human and animal health. The event was co-hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services. I was there representing the broader pet care community as we formalized our commitment to tackle the issue alongside a wide range of national and international organizations dealing with everything from medicine and pharmaceuticals to agriculture and manufacturing.
In the language of the CDC, this is a One Health issue. One Health considers the connections between people, animals, plants and the environment when looking at global concerns.
So, how does the pet trade fit in? For those of us in the pet care community, antibiotics play a crucial role in ensuring animal health and well being. The idea that resistant germs could render them useless—or at least diminish their effectiveness—is certainly a cause for concern. Add in the threat posed to humans by resistant zoonotic diseases, and the need for a proactive approach becomes clear.
To that end, we at PIJAC have been working to gather information on the various ways in which antimicrobials are used throughout the pet trade. We’ve sat down with breeders and distributors of companion animals to understand their approaches to antibiotic stewardship. We’ve talked to retailers and manufacturers about the presence of antimicrobial compounds in over-the-counter products. And we’ve sought guidance from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Animal Health Institute (AHI)—both of whom have worked extensively on these issues within their own communities.
Earlier this year, the AVMA announced a “call to action” on antimicrobial stewardship, which looks at prescription policies and drug use practices in addition to encouraging preventive healthcare strategies and continuing education. AHI’s work on judicious use of antibiotics in animal health across the board (food animals and companion animals alike) addresses oversight and general practices to demonstrate a commitment to animal care.
Our goal is to take all of this information, refine it with input from experts and develop a best management practices document for the broader pet care community. This document will provide recommendations for judicious use of antibiotics in companion animal care across all industry sectors.
That phrase—judicious use—is an important one. It represents a commitment to responsible care, a thoughtful consideration of alternative approaches, and a recognition that antimicrobials are necessary to the health and well being of companion animals from dogs and cats to birds, fish, reptiles and small mammals. It is a call for stewardship and care—not a reactionary crackdown.
The timeliness of this effort was further underscored by Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner. In comments published on July 31, Dr. Gottlieb specifically referenced plans to develop and advance “new strategies for promoting antimicrobial stewardship in companion animals.” This is similar to work that the FDA has done to regulate the use of antimicrobials that are important to treating human disease in the livestock community, and we in the pet care community are looking to the example they provide for a process built on cooperation and collaboration.
So what does all of this mean to you? We need your help. We know that many organizations already have protocols in place for properly handling and administering antimicrobial products —we want to hear about them. As we have done with other standards we have developed, we will execute Non-Disclosure Agreements with anyone interested in sharing proprietary information. In this way, we can all benefit from your existing efforts. We will also be seeking feedback at various points in the process, sharing standards and inviting comments in town halls and other public forums. We will also need your help once the recommendations are formally released. At that point, it will be important to distribute them as widely as possible and to encourage their adoption and implementation.
Over the next year, we at PIJAC will be providing regular updates on this important effort as we seek to align the pet care community’s approach to antimicrobial stewardship with those of the veterinary and animal health communities. Using the One Health approach, we and our allies will work to ensure healthier pets and healthier people by adopting recommendations that hinder the development of resistant germs. Please join us in this fight—contact PIJAC today to learn about how you can help us meet the AMR Challenge. PB