WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 - A task force of land-grant academics and representatives from veterinary schools has released a report outlining a national strategy for reducing the role antibiotics used in food-animal production systems play in the broader antimicrobial resistance problem.

The report calls for a comprehensive research and educational agenda and details plans on how to implement it, according to the task force, which includes representatives from the production-animal ag community and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We know that antibiotic resistance is biologically complex and poorly understood,” said Dr. Lonnie King, a former dean of Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and former senior official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who co-chaired the task force.  “We also know that the scope and scale of the problem threatens human, animal and environmental health, nationally and globally. The committee has accomplished some important work, but now we need to take action.  Solving this problem is going to require focus, resources, collaboration and sustained effort.”

The Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture was created by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

The report stresses that education and research are the keys to fighting the problem. It calls for the creation of a model antibiotic resistance curriculum that is adaptable for undergraduate, graduate and professional students in the animal and health sciences. Training and educational materials are also needed for human and animal health professionals, producers and farmers, as well as the general public, including young people.

Research should be directed toward improved understanding of antibiotic resistance mechanisms – such as the transfer of resistance across species and how host immunocompetence influences the emergence of resistance, the task force said. It should also aim at identification and development of alternatives to current antibiotics and improving understanding of the risk that antibiotic resistance patterns in animal agriculture pose to human health through modeling as well as longitudinal studies.

The report also contains a strategy for implementing its educational and research program recommendations. In addition to hiring a full-time manager, who is already in place, the report calls for a national consortium of faculty experts to be identified to build out the programs and to collaborate with federal agency personnel. Pilot projects focused on combating antibiotic resistance will be created at several large universities with substantial human medical, veterinary medical, and agricultural centers, the task force said.

Funding to implement the recommendations is still uncertain. A spokesman said the group is “exploring all funding options and looking forward to develop innovative partnerships between the public and private sectors.” The Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, created by the 2014 farm bill, is an example of the kind of organization the task force hopes to work with.


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