New research suggests animals not to blame for human antimicrobial resistance

Medicines cabinet

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed new research from the University of Glasgow which indicates that the risk of antimicrobial resistance passing from animals to humans is lower than previous research has indicated.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, exploited long-term surveillance data of Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 from co-located humans and animals in Scotland. The findings demonstrated how animal and human DT104 populations differ significantly in several ways such as prevalence, linkage, time of emergence, and diversity and suggest that the local animal populations are unlikely to be the major source of resistance in humans. It also found that in the majority of resistances which are common to both animals and humans, the resistances appeared first in humans.

The research calls into question policies that restrict the veterinary use of antimicrobials in order to reduce resistance in humans, such as recent moves in the European Parliament to ban the prophylactic use of antimicrobials in livestock.

The BVA is making a strong case in Europe for policies that respect the right of veterinary surgeons to prescribe veterinary medicines according to clinical and professional judgement. 

Commenting, Carl Padgett, President of the BVA, said:

“For a long time antimicrobial resistance in humans has been blamed in part on the veterinary use of antimicrobials and the result has been moves to restrict the ability of vets to use certain classes of antimicrobials.

“This research will be a hugely important step in our understanding of the way resistance occurs. While contact between animals and humans does lead to some transmission of disease and the potential transfer of resistance, the researchers state that it is unlikely that the animal population is the major source of resistance diversity for humans.

“The BVA strongly advocates the responsible use of antimicrobials and will continue to promote this message to the UK veterinary profession.”