Farmers and vets are being urged to continue following current prescription guidelines and completing courses of animal treatments, after some health experts questioned the validity of currently accepted guidelines.
An article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested that there is little evidence that failing to complete a prescribed antibiotic course could contribute to antibiotic resistance.
But the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is cautioning against any changes to the duration or dosage of antibiotic prescriptions, until further evidence is provided to support such changes.
BVA junior vice president John Fishwick said the UK veterinary profession is committed to the responsible use of antibiotics. “Medicines should never be used to compensate for poor husbandry practices and routine habitual prophylactic use in healthy animals to prevent disease is a no-go,” he said.
“The article in the BMJ suggests that antibiotics should be used for as short a period as possible, and that we should move away from the concept of following a predetermined course. This may indeed be a very important advance, but it is far too early to determine how this would work in veterinary practice. We need to clearly establish the evidence supporting it.
“We support the researchers’ calls for clinical trials to determine the most effective strategies for antibiotic treatment. Until further studies are conducted, it is too early to change the way we prescribe medicines and vets should continue to prescribe as previously, only when necessary. It is also vital that clients continue to follow the directions given by their vets, both in terms of dosage and duration of treatment, carefully.”
Mark Fielder, Professor of Medical Microbiology with Kingston University London and member of the Responsible Use of Medicine in Agriculture’s (RUMA) Scientific Group, reiterated the advice.
He said: “While it is right to debate and question current practice in science in medicine, it is also important to ensure the continuation of best practice unless new evidence suggests otherwise.
He said: “It is imperative that the full course of antibiotics are used following culture and sensitivity testing to ensure that the drug has had the opportunity to act against the invading organism and achieve the best outcome.
“This will also help in the prevention of resistance development as if the correct antibiotic is prescribed and administered in the most appropriate way, then it follows that there is the best opportunity for the organism to be killed, dead organisms do not mutate and so develop resistance.”
This mirrors the advice from the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, who has said the message to the public on medical use of antibiotics should remain unchanged until there is further research.