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Animal Science: Today and Tomorrow

January 15, 2014

Dr. Tom Troxel                                                                                Dr. Michael L. Looper


Antibiotic Use and Resistance


The symposium Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health was developed by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and conducted November 12-14, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The symposium was a continuation of discussions and sharing of information that commenced with the October 26-27, 2011, Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose symposium conducted in Chicago, Ill., and A One Health Approach to Antimicrobial Use & Resistance: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose symposium conducted November 13-15, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio.

NIAA is a non‐profit, membership‐driven organization that unites and advances animal agriculture: the aquatic, beef, dairy, equine, goat, poultry, sheep and swine industries. NIAA is dedicated to furthering programs working toward the eradication of diseases that pose risk to the health of animals, wildlife and humans; promote the efficient production of a safe and wholesome food supply for our nation and abroad; and promote best practices in environmental stewardship, animal health and well-being.



The symposium provided a platform where animal health and human health scientists and other experts interacted, shared the most current science-based information as well as their professional insights and created an environment to learn from each other. Adding further dimension to the symposium were presentations by a consumer advocacy organization, grocery retailers, staff members and selected media representing agriculture and consumer advocates.

The goals of the 2013 symposium were the same as the 2012 symposium:

  1. To lead and engage participants in an open conversation.
  2. To build relationship within animal, human, and environmental health and gain a better understanding of other perspectives.
  3. To find common ground and formulate a path forward.
  4. To focus on continuous improvement and commitment to long-term animal health and human health.



The 20 presentations delivered by antibiotic use and resistance experts representing animal health, human health and public health; a consumer advocacy organization; grocery retailers; staff members; and selected media representing agriculture and consumer advocates resulted in a robust dialogue and exchange of information.

The following points were among those brought forth during the Symposium by the speakers and participants:

1. The science behind the emergence, amplification, persistence and transfer of antibiotic resistance is highly complex and open to interpretation—and sometimes misinterpretation—from a wide variety of perspectives and misuse. If you think you understand antimicrobial resistance, it hasn’t been explained properly to you.

2. The extremely complex relationship between animal health, human health and environmental health is driven by two premises: 1) Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is present with or without the use of antimicrobials; and 2) Anytime an antibiotic enters the ecosystem, it has the potential to contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance.

3. Antibiotic resistance is not just transferred from animals to humans; resistance is also transferred from humans to animals.

4. Antimicrobial resistance occurs not only in food-production animals and in humans but in companion animals as well.

5. Antibiotic resistance is not just a U.S. challenge; it’s an international issue that requires a strategic global One Health approach.

6. Evaluating antimicrobial resistance involves balancing risks vs. needs while constantly recognizing the importance of maintaining an efficacious arsenal of human antibiotics.

7. New tools that address food animal infectious diseases must be developed, whether they are in the field of prevention or new molecules for therapeutics.

8. Although food-borne illnesses are down 29 percent in the last decade, media hits on food-borne illness have increased 150 percent during the same time frame.

9. No antibiotic is guaranteed to kill 100 percent of the pathogens causing an illness.

10. The great majority of antibiotic classes used in human and animal health have very little or no overlap. The two classes with a higher level of overlap are the sulfas and macrolides.

11. Research studies and findings are often viewed through different lenses. Individuals can look at the same study and interpret the study very differently from each other based on their understanding of the science as well as their values and beliefs.

12. Decisions and policy should be grounded in science, and policy should be based on science. The question, however, is who decides what should be considered when making those decisions and policies. For effective interventions to complex problems, the solutions should be developed by including a broad representation of relevant stakeholders and their sometimes-competing perspectives and values.

13. Significant efforts are being led by the public health community to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in human health and reduce hospital-acquired infections. Agriculture needs to be open to change as well.

14. Change will happen. Open dialogue must continue, with animal agriculture at the table or change will be drastic and by statute and will not be a deliberative policy change.

15. Food animal production should enforce current regulations and address any antibiotic misuse or be prepared for an unfavorable outcome.

16. Solving antibiotic resistance requires collaboration and raises the question, “How does human health, environmental health and animal health work together to address antibiotic use and resistance?”.



For additional information you can contact the National Institute for Animal Agriculture at their website:

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