Fundamentals of Antimicrobial Stewardship in Veterinary Medicine

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

Antimicrobials are critical tools for preventing and fighting disease in humans and animals. However, increasing reports of antimicrobial resistance and drug-resistant bacteria threaten their efficacy in treating diseases for all living species. Antimicrobial resistance is a One Health issue affecting humans, animals, and the environment, which requires urgent action across all sectors.

An effective fight against antimicrobial resistance requires stewardship effort from all sectors of medicine, including the veterinary field. By implementing antimicrobial stewardship practices and programming, veterinarians can aid in the preservation of antibiotic efficacy, promote animal health and welfare, and contribute to a safe food supply.

Principles of Veterinary Antimicrobial Stewardship

Antimicrobials, including antibiotics, are commonly used in companion, laboratory, food-producing, zoo, and aquatic animals to prevent, control, and treat disease. If we hope to continue utilizing medically important antimicrobials in veterinary medicine and safeguard their efficacy for future applications, antimicrobial stewardship practices are key.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defines antimicrobial stewardship for veterinarians as, “…the actions veterinarians take individually and as a profession to preserve the effectiveness and availability of antimicrobial drugs through conscientious oversight and responsible medical decision-making while safeguarding animal, public, and environmental health.”

The AVMA has outlined the following 5 key stewardship principles for adoption in veterinarian antimicrobial stewardship programs:

  1. Commit to stewardship: Develop a stewardship plan that engages all practice members and key stakeholders to identify key areas for improvement and provide accountability.
  2. Advocate for a system of care to prevent common diseases: Minimize the need for antimicrobial drugs by adopting preventive strategies and considering alternatives to antimicrobial use.
  3. Select and use antimicrobial drugs judiciously: Utilize evidence-based decision-making and veterinary guidelines regarding appropriate deployment of antimicrobial drugs and evaluation of outcomes.
  4. Evaluate antimicrobial drug use practices: Analyze antimicrobial drug prescriptions, share data while observing client confidentiality, and provide feedback to clients and to other veterinarians.
  5. Educate and build expertise: Encourage access to antimicrobial stewardship resources and remain up to date on stewardship guidelines, alternatives to antimicrobials, and new research.

Impact of Veterinary Stewardship Programs

Antimicrobial-resistant organisms can spread between people and animals and can be passed through animal-based foods. Antimicrobial resistance affects all living beings, and with large quantities of antibiotics being used for food-producing livestock animals, veterinarians are in a unique position to make a definitive impact on antimicrobial use through the adoption of stewardship practices and by limiting use of medically important antimicrobial drugs.

Although a considerable amount of antimicrobial resistance and stewardship conversations center around human-based applications, veterinary medicine has an important role in combating antimicrobial resistance. 

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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