The terms antimicrobials or antimicrobial agents refer to all types of natural and synthetic drugs which may kill or slow down the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria. Antimicrobial agents are widely used for the treatment and prevention of human and animal diseases. The term antimicrobial resistance refers to a property of bacteria that enables them to grow in the presence of antimicrobial drug levels that would normally be expected to inhibit or kill susceptible bacteria.
The Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR) released its report on The Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals: Antibiotic-Resistant bacteria in Animals and Humans in September 1999, making 22 recommendations for antimicrobial resistance management.
The Australian Government Response in August 2000 strongly supported the intent of the JETACAR report and outlined mechanisms for implementing the recommendations. It highlighted the need for a coordinated and balanced approach to better manage the use of antibiotics in humans and food producing animals.
Recommendation 10 of the JETACAR report emphasised the need to establish surveillance for antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from livestock as part of an integrated risk management system that also includes human and food isolates. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has responsibility for the animal component of a surveillance and monitoring system. DAFF implemented a surveillance program, in November 2003. In this program, bacteria isolated from gut contents of healthy animals were tested for resistance to a range of antibiotics. The findings of the ‘Pilot Surveillance Program for Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria of Animal Origin’ provide a snapshot of the prevalence of resistance to important antimicrobials in key indicator bacteria found in the gut of food-producing animals in Australia.
DAFF has a leading role in addressing concerns about antimicrobial resistance relating to the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals in Australia. In the past, DAFF co-chaired the Commonwealth Interdepartmental JETACAR Implementation Group (CIJIG) and was involved in the work of the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance of the National Health and Medical Research Council. Currently, DAFF leads the Australian delegation at the meetings Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Additionally, DAFF provides policy and technical advice on antimicrobial resistance issues in international fora such as:
- Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR)
- Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food (CCRVDF)
- Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH)
23 May 2011