Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: OIE initiatives for responsible, prudent use of antimicrobials in animals in Asia-Pacific

The organisation conducted workshops to spread awareness & understand how antimicrobial use data can be shared among stakeholders

Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021: OIE initiatives for responsible, prudent use of antimicrobials in animals in Asia Pacific. Photo: iStock

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was established in 1924 in response to the need to fight animal diseases at global level. It is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide and currently has 182 members.

OIE has been addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for many years. In 2016, it launched The OIE Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance and the Prudent Use of Antimicrobials that has four key objectives of enhancing awareness and understanding, strengthening knowledge through surveillance and research, supporting good governance and capacity building and implementation of international standards. 

Contained in several chapters of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the Aquatic Animal Health Code, the OIE provides the latest scientific information on AMR, for terrestrial and aquatic animals that countries can use for AMR surveillance, monitoring of antimicrobial use (AMU) in animals and in implementing responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials. Chapter 2.1.1 of the OIE Terrestrial Manual provides laboratory procedures for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. 

The OIE List of Antimicrobial Agents of Veterinary Importance, published in 2007 and last updated in June 2021, is divided into three categories: Veterinary Critically Important Antimicrobial Agents, Veterinary Highly Important Antimicrobials and Veterinary Important Antimicrobials. The list is for countries to implement responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in livestock and aquaculture production. 

Based on this list, the OIE recommends that fluoroquinolones, third and fourth generation of cephalosporins and colistin should not be used as preventive treatment in the absence of clinical signs, should not be used as a first line of treatment unless justified, to avoid using as extra-label / off-label unless no alternatives are available and urgently prohibits their use as growth promoters. 

The OIE is mandated by the global tripartite to take a lead role in developing and maintaining the global database on AMU in animals (AMU database). The Asia-Pacific region is the highest consumer of antimicrobials (by animal biomass) as compared with other regions, according to the Fifth OIE Annual Report on Antimicrobial Agents Intended for Use in Animals.

The OIE has also developed several communication materials targeting stakeholders who have a role to play in addressing AMR in countries. 

Armed with these standards, tools, guidance and reports, the OIE Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific based in Tokyo, Japan and the OIE Sub-Regional Representation for South-East Asia based in Bangkok, Thailand have been implementing several activities to address AMR in the Asia-Pacific region. 

To enhance awareness on AMR, we have been providing technical and financial support to many countries in the region to undertake advocacy events on AMR, especially during the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week held annually in November.

Since 2018, the organisation have supported countries such as Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Thailand, Timor Leste and Sri Lanka and Vietnam, in translating OIE’s awareness materials into their national languages for use during the advocacy events. 

China and Japan also translated OIE’s awareness materials and used them for their advocacy events. As the bulk of the antimicrobials are used in livestock production, the organisation conducted workshops in Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam, targeting livestock and aquaculture producers, industries, veterinarians, animal health workers, aquatic animal health professionals, among others. 

The use of OIE’s standards as well as guidelines on prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials and encouraging public-private partnerships in AMR control was advocated. 

OIE organised workshops targeting veterinary students and faculty members in veterinary schools in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka in 2018 and 2021. The aim was to make the veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals and aquatic animal health professionals aware of the organisation’s standards and guidelines as well as AMR and how they can play their part in addressing the crisis. 

The motive was also to encourage a professional culture which supports the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in animals. The seminars raised awareness on AMR and emphasised the need to include AMR in the veterinary education core curriculum of the veterinary universities.

In many countries in the region, regulations and monitoring of AMU in the animal sector is ineffective, largely due to a lack of coordination and data sharing among stakeholders. 

Since 2018, the OIE has organised in-country AMU monitoring workshops in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka to enhance monitoring of the quantities and usage patterns of antimicrobials used in animals. 

The key output of such monitoring workshops is understanding the dynamics of antimicrobial usage in the animal sector in which countries can understand the flow of antimicrobials in terms of import, manufacture, distribution, usage and the stakeholders responsible for regulating at each level of the AMU supply chain. 

The workshop brings together stakeholders who have a role in antimicrobial usage, including government regulators, private sector (manufacturer, importer, distributor, wholesaler, retailer), animal industries, livestock associations. The organisation seeks to understand what sort of AMU data each stakeholder can provide to the national regulatory authority for AMU monitoring. 

Amid the  global pandemic in 2020 and 2021, OIE adapted its activities and organised several webinars covering aspects on reviewing implementation of national action plans on AMR, AMR communication skills, and the AMU database.

Several challenges still exist in the Asia-Pacific region to implement responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in the animal sector. 

There is weak enforcement of legislation in regulating the import, production, sale and monitoring of antimicrobials used in animals. 

There is inadequate supervision by veterinarians on the usage of antimicrobials in animals and that of antimicrobial agents as growth promoters in the absence of risk analysis. 

Therefore, there is a need for continued action at all levels in addressing the threat of AMR through advocating as well as implementing responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in livestock production. 

The OIE will continue to work closely with its members in advocating responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials in animals in our quest to address AMR in the Asia-Pacific region.

Views expressed are the authors’ own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth. 

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