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Antimicrobial Resistance: We All Have a Role to Play

By Duane Landals BSc.Ag, DVM, Senior Advisor, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association. Originally published by Canadian Vet

The scientific community is keenly aware that the continued emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a real and significant threat to both human and animal health and wellbeing.

The science of AMR is complex and complicated. As well, the politics involved are equally complex. Tradition has seen every sector engaged in the debate trying to find a reason to blame someone else for the problem. It is time to get past assigning blame, move out of our silos, and try and find a means of cross-sector collaboration. Every sector in animal and human health has a role to play. It is imperative that we identify the areas we might engage in to ensure the integrity and availability of antimicrobial therapeutic agents for both animals and humans.

In 2011, the World Veterinary Association published a revised policy paper called “WVA Position on Responsible Use of Antimicrobials”. This document highlights 12 global principles for the veterinary community to meet in addressing the responsible use of antimicrobials in veterinary practice. In summary these principles are:

  • In cases of animal disease, a veterinarian should examine the animal to make a diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment program
  • Antimicrobials used for therapy are health management tools that are licensed for disease treatment, control, and prevention
  • Codes of good veterinary practice, quality assurance programs, herd health control, surveillance programs, and education should promote the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials
  • Antimicrobials should be used only with veterinary involvement
  • The availability of effective antimicrobials should be based on assessment analysis that considers the OIE list of Antimicrobials of Veterinary Importance
  • Therapeutic antimicrobials should only be used when it is known or suspected that an infectious agent is present which will be susceptible to therapy. Veterinarians must use their professional judgment in the proper selection of therapy, balancing risks and benefits to humans and animals
  • Bacteriological diagnosis with antimicrobial sensitivity testing should be part of informed professional judgment when antimicrobial therapy is needed
  • Label instructions should be carefully followed
  • Antimicrobials used for therapy should be used for as long as needed, over as short a dosage period as possible, and at the appropriate dosage regimen
  • Records should be kept of all antimicrobial administration
  • Coordinated susceptibility monitoring and surveillance should be conducted and the results provided to the prescribing veterinarian and other relevant parties
  • Efficacious, scientifically proven alternatives to antimicrobials are needed as an important part of good husbandry practices

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) is the Veterinary Statutory Body responsible for the practice of Veterinary Medicine in Alberta, Canada. As a self-governing body of veterinarians and veterinary technologists, we have accepted a firm commitment to ensure that our members develop practice standards that help maintain the integrity and availability of antimicrobials for use in animals. We have established mandatory guidelines for their use by veterinarians (Council Guidelines for Prescribing, Dispensing, Selling and Compounding Drugs). These guidelines require a veterinarian to

  • Establish medical need before prescribing antimicrobials
  • Dispense or oversee dispensing practices and procedures
  • Oversee the use of dispensed medications
  • Be available for follow up in case of treatment failure or adverse drug reaction
  • Maintain detailed records in regard to these activities

In addition to setting standards for veterinarians, it is important to communicate the concerns about resistance to all parties using antimicrobials, including livestock producers, pet owners, and the public at large. The ABVMA is pleased to have received project funding to enable us to embark on an intensive awareness campaign. The project will deliver educational material to help prepare veterinarians and animal owners for regulatory and policy changes that are occurring regarding antimicrobial use in animals. It is intended to provide clarification of responsibility and assist veterinarians in communicating this to their clients and the public. Information is available at and The ABVMA believes that antimicrobials are essential to providing good animal health and welfare, and understands that our continued access to these necessary products will only be achieved through responsible use and an ability to verify that we are following best practices.

Controlling antimicrobial resistance – fact sheet
  • Antimicrobial resistance is an inevitable result of antimicrobial use. Bacteria develop resistance naturally through evolution 
  • Controlling antimicrobial resistance is a shared responsibility with shared consequences 
  • Most antimicrobials are naturally-occurring. Some antimicrobials are produced artificially through chemical processes, but most are produced through the action of microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi 
  • Antimicrobials have been in use as medicine since the 1930s. They are effective against bacterial infections but not viral infections 
  • The production and distribution of antimicrobials is regulated federally, though the medical professionals responsible for prescribing and dispensing them are regulated under provincial legislation
  • Regular vaccinations and other preventative measures are essential to reducing the use of antimicrobials. Proper diet, exercise, biosecurity, and hygiene also improve health and reduce the need for antimicrobials 
  • The only way to be certain that antimicrobials are necessary for treatment is to verify a bacterial infection through diagnostic testing 
  • Antimicrobials are invaluable in treating and preventing bacterial infections that may have resulted from common surgeries 
  • Antimicrobials can be administered in a number of ways including topical ointments, bolus/tablets, feed, injection, intramammary, and water