Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has highlighted a global threat to the health of people and animals as a worldwide awareness week on the issue gets underway today.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is marked annually between 18 – 24 November and aims to increase global awareness of antimicrobial resistance, and to encourage best practices including amongst the public and practitioners, including vets.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections in people and animals harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “The World Health Organisation has declared Antimicrobial Resistance as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity and animals are also at risk.
“It is a major issue which requires nations throughout the world to take action to ensure antibiotics remain effective.
“The Welsh Government is tackling the threat of AMR in several ways including by providing £4 million to support animal health projects.”
Arwain DGC has received funding to support its broad range of activities to tackle AMR in Wales.
One of these projects is at Hafod y Maidd farm near Cerrigydrudion in Conwy where new technology is helping farmer Iwan Davies detect and tackle disease in his suckler herd early and reduce the need for antibiotics.
The technology acts as an ‘early warning system’ alerting him to potential infection when a cow is in heat or the early stages of calving and any other health matters such as mastitis or lameness. This notification enables him to act before the disease develops and the cow reaches the stage where it needs antibiotic treatment.
Iwan said: “Our whole farm ethos at Hafod y Maidd is to try and cut back on antibiotics and other doses we give our cattle and sheep.
“The system does not take the place of good husbandry or management, we’ve still got our eye on everything, but anything that can further help us – and help reduce the need for antibiotics – is a plus.”
South Caernarfon Creameries (SCC) have also been taking action by helping their milk producers record their use of antibiotics by working with their vet and using Welsh Lamb & Beef Producers’ ground-breaking web-based antibiotic calculation tool.
This is producing the data needed to monitor the use of antibiotics in livestock, as part of responsible use.
One farmer involved is Malcolm Davies of Nyffryn near Pwllheli, who is also one of SCC’s farmer directors.
Malcolm said: “I found the effort very useful and much simpler than I anticipated. It’s very important for the creamery that it has complete customer confidence by having full quality traceability in its cheese and its other dairy produce from farm to plate.”
Lois Williams, SCC’s Technical Compliance Officer said: “Our farms work hard to produce milk of the best quality 365 days a year.
“Welsh Lamb & Beef Producers’ system has enabled us, with the farmer’s permission, to receive data on antibiotic use by our members as individual farmers and as a co-operative group which is really useful and can verify responsible use of farm medicines.
“Our retail customers regularly ask us about antibiotic usage on farms and this facility provides the accurate data that we require to both report and improve our business’ performance.”
Public Health Wales are also running an awareness campaign about antibiotic resistance, explaining why it’s a threat and what people can do to prevent it. Public health experts warn that, if antibiotic resistance continues, routine treatments such as chemotherapy, organ transplants and joint replacements could no longer be possible. More than 700,000 people die globally every year due to infections which are resistant to antibiotics.
The Rural Affairs Minister added: “The Wales Animal and Environment AMR Delivery Group, which is made up of representatives from the farming industry, the veterinary profession, Public Health Wales and Welsh Government, is a prime example of the One Health approach we are taking by addressing human, animal and environmental aspects of the AMR threat together.
“I encourage everyone to learn more during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.”
More information on World Antimicrobial Awareness Week can be found at https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-antimicrobial-awareness-week