Top German vet calls for new approach to antibiotics challenge

Veterinary surgeons and doctors need to work together to address the challenge of using antibiotics to the benefit of both humans and animals, rather than being in conflict over the issue, Germany’s top vet told a EuroTier audience in Hanover this week.

Presenting a strong case for antibiotics to be applied as much to animal issues as to human ones, when there was sufficient need, the president of the German Federal Association of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (bpt), Dr Hans-Joachim Götz, argued for specialist expertise to be at the heart of future decisions on antibiotic use, in contrast to the political and media-driven nature of the current debate.

“If bpt (Bundesverbandes Praktizierender Tierärzte) were to have its way,” he continued, “veterinary surgeons and doctors would together, as part of the EU’s Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) action plan and of the German Antibiotics Resistance Strategy (DART), commit themselves to using antibiotics only in accordance with clear guidelines and under controlled conditions.  Effective solutions would also be developed to be communicated to veterinary surgeons and doctors via the relevant channels, enlisting their support for the degree of care, attention and responsibility required.”

While politicians and the media pursued a constant campaign for antibiotics use to be reduced, other issues were being overlooked.  Hospital hygiene, for example, urgently needed to be given greater priority in relation to the transmission of resistant bacteria. Equally, the focus of current animal health policies needed to be on disease avoidance by means of preventive action such as inoculation and hygiene measures, better farm management and improving the conditions in which animals were kept.

“If, despite all these efforts, disease occurs in herds and flocks, the governing principle must be that sick animals are entitled to be treated whenever necessary,” said Dr Götz.  “Anything else could not be reconciled with animal welfare needs and with responsible animal husbandry methods.”

He also drew attention to the fact that antibiotic use monitoring now covers 95% of poultry farms and 90% of pig rearing units in Germany, a development which meant a comprehensive picture of antibiotic use in both sectors would soon be available as a “benchmarking” tool for the whole industry, both in Germany and throughout the EU. 

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