21 Nov 2017
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most urgent problems of our generation. Antibiotics are used across agricultural industries, but increasingly pressure is being applied to reduce reliance on these vital medicines, to maintain an effective treatment portfolio for generations to come. The industry is doing this without compromising animal health or welfare and by using a selection of management practices which focus on disease prevention strategies as an alternative to antimicrobial use.
These include high standards of biosecurity to protect farms from incoming disease; good management, husbandry and hygiene practices to curtail the spread of infection within the farm; and high standards of animal welfare to promote general health and a strong immune response. Key among the preventive measures is vaccination – the
process by which the animal gains immunity or resistance to a particular infection. Vaccination has always played a role in modern livestock farming in helping to control infectious disease. By preventing or reducing those infections,
vaccination also has the scope to help reduce the need for antimicrobial use.
The role and success of vaccination is well understood and has been extensively demonstrated in the field of human medicine. The immunisation vaccination provides has been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as, arguably, the single most cost-effective preventive health intervention. WHO has also identified the role of vaccination in limiting the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Polio, which has been all but eliminated around the world, is perhaps the most well-known example of a vaccination success in human health. In agriculture too, there have been numerous sector specific successes, one of which was recently seen in the campaign against Salmonella in the poultry industry, which began in the late 1980s and whose breakthrough came with the widespread vaccination of hens. This was driven by the British Egg Industry Council Lion Code of Practice which set out standards for flock biosecurity and bacteriological testing and stated flocks must be vaccinated against Salmonella enteritidis (Cogan and Humphrey, 2003). So successful has the campaign been that Salmonella infection in the human population has plummeted, from a peak in England and Wales of 33,000 in 1997 (Cogan and Humphrey, 2003) to 8,558 in 2015 (Public Health England, 2016).
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