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What the AVMA’s new antimicrobial-resistant pathogens report means for companion-animal veterinarians

Antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms—pathogens that develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them—are one of the most serious global problems facing both human and animal healthcare.

Antimicrobial stewardship is an important part of the solution. The AVMA defines antimicrobial stewardship as “the actions veterinarians take . . . to preserve the effectiveness and availability of antimicrobial drugs through conscientious oversight and responsible decisionmaking while safeguarding animal, public, and environmental health.”

On October 9, the Federal Task Force on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, composed of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other US health agencies, released the “National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: 2020–2025” to address coordinated and strategic actions to address antibiotic resistance in humans, animals, and the environment.

The AVMA released “Antimicrobial-Resistant Pathogens Affecting Animal Health in the US” on the same day. To produce the report, the AVMA Committee on Antimicrobials worked with microbiologists, epidemiologists, and species experts to identify bacterial pathogens that have shown resistance.

NEWStat talked to Erin Frey, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, to find out more. Frey, a postdoctoral teaching fellow at North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, represents AAHA as a member of the AVMA Committee on Antimicrobials. She said the report can help companion-animal veterinary teams with their antimicrobial stewardship efforts.

Frey said a major goal was to make sure that every member of the hospital team understands the importance of antimicrobial stewardship and is able to apply the core principles to their work, regardless of position. To facilitate that, the committee created a veterinary checklist based on the core principles of antimicrobial stewardship.

Frey said the CDC’s plans for combatting antimicrobial resistance have tended to be very human focused, so one of the aims of the AVMA report was to fill a gap. “We kind of know what’s going on on the human side as far antimicrobial-resistant pathogens go. But what’s going on on the animal side? We’re seeing a lot of the same bacteria among different species, from fish and food animals to companion animals. This was an attempt to bring that all together.”

Frey says that one area in particular should be of interest to companion-animal veterinarians: “We call it our ‘report card.’” It’s essentially a handy reference guide that lists the different pathogens of concern and what being done to combat resistance to them.

“If [teams] want to get a little bit deeper into it, the report has a table which lists  more about each type of bacteria and what steps veterinarians can take,” Frey said. “It’s just a one-pager on each, but they’re really centered on issues like infection control. ”

The technical appendix concludes the report with detailed listings of each pathogen, including their impact on animal health, actions taken to control them, and informational resources.

NEWStat asked Frey what she thought were the most important takeaways for veterinarians.

“For me, the two big things are: what kinds of bacteria to be on the lookout for and what preventive actions you can take in your hospital, such as protocols you can set up to prevent transmission of these pathogens.”

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