Animal Health: Our Role & Responsibility

Infections once considered lethal are now easily treatable. Antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture is a key component of animal welfare, food security and safety.
Animal Health: Our Role & Responsibility
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Every organization, or a professional society observes a day not only to showcase its achievements but also to deliberate on challenges and opportunities with an ultimate aim to serve human society to its maximum. Veterinary Profession, being no exception, contributes immensely to public health by ensuring food security and safety, preventing and controlling zoonoses, protecting environments and ecosystems and engaging in medical research. The ONE MEDICINE approach to human and animal health emphasizes the interconnectedness of relationships and the transferability of knowledge in solving health problems in all species. "Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line – nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine" – Rudolf Virchow.

Given the importance of Veterinary Profession, the last Saturday of April is observed across the globe as WORLD VETERINARY DAY (WVD) with an aim to highlight and promote the different facets of the work performed by Vets and to raise awareness on their contribution to improve animal health as well as public health. World Veterinary Organization and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which are at the initiative of this event, select a different theme for each year. The theme for WVD-2017 is "Antimicrobial Resistance – from Awareness to Action".

As a professional obligation, Directorate of Animal Husbandry Kashmir organized a mega function at SKICC to celebrate WVD-2017. However, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & Animal Husbandry, SKUAST-Kashmir couldn't celebrate. Unfortunately (given the only day to celebrate), the day coincided with probably even bigger and more important function at SKUAST main campus. Yet the Veterinary Faculty members are determined to celebrate WVD-2017 at some later date with bigger enthusiasm. And why not: they play a far bigger and better role in shaping the Veterinary Profession in this turmoil hit region of the world. If not celebrated, it will go down as a professional neglect on their part. And a spark once neglected can turn into a fire. At SKICC, considering the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) due to overuse/misuse of antimicrobials in human and animal medicine, the experts stressed upon the judicious use of antimicrobials in food animals and enjoined to turn words into action, to encourage all the initiatives and events led by Vets in collaboration with other sectors to fight the menace and raise awareness on this important issue.

No doubt, the practice of human and animal medicine has been transformed due to availability and use of antimicrobial drugs. Infections once considered lethal are now easily treatable. Antimicrobial use (AMU) in food and agriculture is a key component of animal welfare, food security and safety. However, overuse/misuse of these drugs has dramatically accelerated the emergence of AMR. To preserve our future it is imperative to safe guard the efficacy of these life-saving medications. Veterinary services have a key part to play in the fight against resistance through their role in regulating and supervising the AMU, offering professional advice to farmers and animal owners and collaborating with the human health sector. Undeniably, the vast majority of scientific literature on AMU/AMR supports restricting the AMU in agriculture, particularly for animal growth promotion or routine disease prevention in the absence of a specific disease threat. But, simply banning or restricting AMU in food and agriculture will handicap Vets, put negative effects on animal welfare and increase the risk of unhealthy animals entering the food chain. A research for non-antimicrobial alternatives in livestock sector has to be prioritised yet one should be better able to balance the ethical obligations regarding the perceived benefit to their patients versus the perceived risk to public health. Also, the hunt for biomarkers guiding the AMU in food animals needs to be intensified so as to mitigate their use. The FDA recently approved expanded use of PCT assay which uses Procalcitonin (PCT) as a biomarker to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, high PCT levels suggest bacterial infection while low levels indicate viral infection or a non-infectious cause of illness. This new indication surely can help reduce inappropriate/unnecessary antibiotic use, and avoid the potential side-effects while slowing and preventing the emergence of resistant bacteria.

Antimicrobials often referred as "societal drugs", their use/misuse in various sectors have societal consequences well beyond the individual taking them or the sector using them. It should be unmistakably clear that to preserve the effectiveness of existing antimicrobials, Vets, Medicos etc should contribute in individual or collective capacity (ies) to reduce AMU and curb the AMR. But the question arises: Do we really bother about resistance menace? Do we consider it a potential public health concern? Do we focus on prudent use of antimicrobials? Do we strive for improved AMU/AMR surveillance? Do we hunt for non-antimicrobial alternatives? If not, mere observance of a day isn't enough to achieve the intended purpose rather we will be blamed for the mess world will be in (pre-antibiotic era). On this day, let's (all stakeholders') resolve to translate words into action, let's promise to work together for better animal and human health, and let's pledge to follow the Hippocratic Oath in letter and spirit. After all it is for the good of one and all concerned.

See you next year

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