12 February 2013
A report in The Times in January criticised the veterinary profession for its use of antimicrobials (or antibiotics) in pet animals. The President of the British Veterinary Association has written to The Times to refute the criticisms and set out the role of the veterinary profession in tackling antimicrobial resistance.
The letter has been printed today. It can be viewed on The Times website (subscription required) and the letter, as submitted, is reprinted below.
Your article “Antibiotic misuse by vets is fuelling rise of superbugs” (report, 26 January) gives an inaccurate and unfair picture of the role of veterinary practitioners in the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.
It is widely acknowledged that a significant cause of resistance in humans is over-prescribing antimicrobials (or antibiotics) in human medicine and this is acknowledged by the medical profession in the UK and by the relevant authorities, including the Department of Health.
The veterinary profession takes its responsibilities in combatting antimicrobial resistance very seriously and there have long been concerted efforts to minimise veterinary antimicrobial resistance in domestic animals. The main focus has been on resistance in farm animals and its potential transfer through food to humans, but the veterinary profession has been increasingly concerned about the development of resistance in organisms in pet animals.
In light of this the British Veterinary Association has been the driver behind ensuring that our members in companion animal practice are aware of the problem and are taking the necessary steps to address it. Indeed at the BVA's annual Congress last September the clinical streams focussed very much on the responsible use of antimicrobials ion companion animals and the necessary measures to counter resistance.
The reports of increased resistance of bacteria to important antimicrobials used in humans, as outlined by Dr Nuttall in your report, is of significant concern, especially those relating to MRSA and similar organisms. However, it is important to note that some experts are still divided over the question of the source of some of these organisms. There is some suggestion that dogs in particular have been infected by a transfer of the bacteria from their human owners and more work must be carried out to enhance our understanding of the problem.
Despite this the BVA continues to actively promote the responsible use of antimicrobials through professional development courses, extensive guidance on how antimicrobials should be used, and emphasis on the need for good clinical governance when it comes to the use of these important medicines.
Rather than entering a blame game that polarises the debate we believe it is important for the medical and veterinary professions to continue to work together to safeguard antibiotics for human and animal use.
Peter Jones BVSc MRCVS
British Veterinary Association
7 Mansfield Street, London W1G 9NQ