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Antimicrobials - Handle With Care

As part of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, researchers at Teagasc, UCD and QUB are aiming to raise awareness and provide supports for farmers to change their antimicrobial use.

Supported by the World Health Organisation, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week runs from November 18th to 24th.  Widespread consumption of antimicrobial drugs including antibiotics in human and animal health has contributed to the rapid increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Teagasc Research Officer and safefood AMU Principle Investigator, Dr Áine Regan highlighted the need to support farmers to engage in behaviour change: “AMR is likely to resonate with the public more than ever in 2020 as we become increasingly aware of the impact that public health threats can have on society. As an OneHealth issue, AMR needs to be tackled through behaviour change in both the human and animal health settings. The safefood AMU project is developing practical, evidence-based strategies based in psychological research to support vets and farmers to change long-held antimicrobial use practices.”

Self-monitoring is one proven behaviour change technique, as described by Chartered Health Psychologist and Post-doctoral Researcher with Teagasc, Alison Burrell highlights: “We suggest encouraging farmers to monitor their antibiotic usage in the same way that we might use a Fitbit to help us change our physical activity behaviours. We know that the very act of monitoring one’s own behaviour can help to change one’s practices through increased awareness and goal setting.”

Bringing this thinking into the agricultural setting, an antibiotic use calculator for dairy herds in the Republic of Ireland is being launched this week to help farmers self-monitor their use of antibiotics. The UCD School of Veterinary Medicine and Teagasc have adapted the University of Nottingham Dairy Antimicrobial Use Calculator for use in an Irish setting.

Dr Conor McAloon, Assistant Professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine in UCD highlights why the calculator is an important tool for the farm: “Knowing what is currently used is the first step in addressing AMU for dairy farmers and their vets. This calculator is an important tool that allows farmers to calculate and benchmark their AMU, using accepted metrics of use.”

Researcher in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannah Martin outlines how the calculator works:The calculator was originally developed by veterinary researchers at the University of Nottingham. We have adapted the calculator to include antibiotic products available for use in the Republic of Ireland. Medicines used on the farm can be entered into the calculator and the products will be converted into commonly used measurements of antimicrobial use (mg/Population Correction Unit – PCU and Defined Daily Dose – DDD). Use of highest priority critically important antimicrobials (CIAs) will also be highlighted.”

The tool is available as an excel document which will be publicly available to download for free in the AMR section of the Teagasc website.

Researchers in the safefood AMU project and the DAFM-funded SWAB project will also be raising AMR awareness in the agricultural sector as part of a week-long social media campaign run by VirtualVet.