Finally, the serious issue of antibiotic resistance is being reviewed, discussed and analyzed by scientists, and not simply through the lens of those interested in eliminating animal agriculture, or permitting animals to suffer from illness without the benefit of treatment with antibiotics.

A Joint Task Force comprised of members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) just published their first report “Addressing Antibiotic Resistance,” which includes steps for implementing the key recommendations set forth therein.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy,

and advocacy organization representing 237 public research universities, land-grant

institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations. Founded in 1887,

APLU is North America’s oldest higher education association with member institutions

in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, Canada, and Mexico.

Annually, member campuses enroll 4.7 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate

students, award 1.1 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct

$41 billion in university-based research.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) is a nonprofit

membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare

of animals, people and the environment around the world by advancing academic

veterinary medicine. Members include 49 accredited veterinary medical colleges in the

United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, as well as 23 affiliate members.

As described in a press release published Thursday, October 29, 2015:

The Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture today unveiled a much-anticipated report that outlines a comprehensive national strategy for diminishing the role antibiotics used in food animal production systems play in the broader antimicrobial resistance (AMR) problem.

The Task Force, comprised of leaders from U.S. agriculture colleges/land grant universities and veterinary colleges as well as key representatives from the production animal agriculture community and the pharmaceutical industry, detailed a comprehensive research and educational agenda along with plans on how it intends to implement it.

Dr. Lonnie King, co-chair of the task force, has held numerous leadership positions in agriculture, infectious disease and veterinary medicine, including: the dean of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, director of the Center for Disease Control’s new National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases (NCZVED), administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),dean of the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and most relevant to me, the co-chair of the Science, Politics and Animal Health Policy Fellowship I participated in in 2000-2001.

Lonnie concluded:

We know that antibiotic resistance is biologically complex and poorly understood . . . 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.

In addition to endorsing a One Health approach to the problem (converging issues confronting human and animal medical needs) the task force set forth the following goals for the implementation of their recommendations:

  • Establish a program manager position and hire a manager to ensure implementation of Task Force Recommendations
  • Work with APLU and AAVMC member institutions to form a national consortium of experts and researchers to execute critical studies and research recommendations
  • Work with agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions to establish collaborative initiatives – including a series of educational workshops and leadership forums
  • Advocate for Task Force recommendations with members of Congress and their staff
  • Engage with international organizations including OIE, FAO, WHO, PAHO, and IICA
  • Create university-based, collaborative pilot projects focusing on combating antibiotic resistance
  • Create a University Research Organization (URO) leveraging public and private funding to facilitate sustained collaborative research and educational initiatives
  • Work with Congress and the USDA to help resolve the important issue of the lack of access to veterinarians in many rural communities across the U.S.Fortunately, work is well underway to replace antibiotics with other molecules and treatments to prevent and treat diseases. Like other remedies, even these newly evolving techniques will face challenges from the equally ever-evolving bacteria and pathogens. Which is precisely why scientists are critical for the resolution of the challenge we face with the continuing resistance of pathogens to existing antibiotics.