Antimicrobials, FDA and You

We all know taking medication as your healthcare professional prescribes is important, including antibiotics (medications used to fight bacterial infections), to help ensure our recovery from sickness. But what if after you took the medication properly, it did not work and your infection persisted? Your health outcome could be quite serious and you’d be at an increased risk for infecting others. Sounds pretty terrible, right? Well, this is basically the premise for antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance.

When people or animals get sick due to a microbial infection–from bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites–medications that are used to treat the infection are called antibiotics or antimicrobials. However, in recent times, some of these medicines have become ineffective due to microbe resistance. When you see or hear “antimicrobial resistance,” this means that the bacteria, virus, fungi or parasite causing an infection was not killed by the medicine. More specifically, the term “antibiotic resistance,” refers only to bacterial infections.

The resistance to these medical treatments has become a national issue that impacts both the health of people and animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that, “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Each year in the U.S., at least two million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection and at least 23,000 people die.”

In an effort to further their long-standing actions to combat antimicrobial resistance, in September 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) unveiled its five-year action plan for supporting antimicrobial stewardship in veterinary settings. FDA stated,

“This plan builds upon the important steps CVM has taken to eliminate production uses of medically important antimicrobials (i.e., antimicrobials important for treating human disease) and to bring all remaining therapeutic uses of these drugs under the oversight of licensed veterinarians. It also supports the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals and is driven by the concept that medically important antimicrobial drugs should only be used in animals when necessary for the treatment, control or prevention of specific diseases.”

This is an issue that impacts humans and animals. Physicians, veterinarians and farmers are working concertedly to diminish the impacts of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. This united effort is needed to help support the health of people, animals and the environment. These types of One Health activities encourage treating infectious diseases by acknowledging the link between human, animal and environmental health then developing best practices to support these important outcomes.

Our new video explains what antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance is, its public health relevance and what FDA has been doing to help combat the link between antimicrobial resistance and our food system.