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Minister Coveney Opens Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, today opened a conference (“Action Today to Ensure Effective Antibiotics for Tomorrow”) organised by his Department to bring increased focus on the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Speaking at the event, Minister Coveney said “Given the cross-sectoral and global nature of the problem, it is generally accepted that no individual sector, or indeed country, or region, can hope to address it in isolation. All of the major international plans support a “One Health”approach urging collaboration across the human, veterinary and environmental sectors.”

Commenting on ongoing work in international fora, the Minister added “Given the global nature of the antimicrobial resistance problem, the work being done in international bodies, such as WHO, FAO and OIE, is particularly critical. There is also a co-ordinated approach at EU level and I particularly welcome the leading role being played by the European Commission, through its 2011 Action Plan, in addressing the increasing threats from antimicrobial resistance. It follows, of course, that the success of the Plan calls for full engagement by all players involved in both the human and veterinary sectors”.

Outlining the approach being adopted by his Department to foster responsible use of antimicrobials and to prevent and control diseases, the Minister said “All antibiotic medicines are subject to veterinary prescription control in Ireland. In addition, my Department operates an antimicrobial resistance surveillance programme. Clearly, the more we can do to help prevent and minimise animal diseases the less need there is to intervene and use treatments such as antibiotics. I am pleased that we are beginning to see more and more emphasis amongst farmers and vets on disease prevention and herd health planning and I endorse that approach.”

Continuing the theme of a co-ordinated approach, the Minister drew attention to the setting up of a joint inter-Departmental Committee with the Department of Health which is essentially a formalisation of an information-sharing mechanism and includes stakeholders from both sectors being brought together within the one consultative forum chaired jointly by both Departments.

Concluding, the Minister said “Strategies to address this issue will only be successful by taking co-ordinated actions across a broad range of fronts. We have speakers today representing industry, the veterinary profession, researchers, consumers and regulators.  We all have a role to play. I look forward to working with you in fulfilling that role”.


The Conference

The conference, to be held in Teagasc, Moorepark, Fermoy, features a wide range of speakers on the topic of AMR ranging from a human health perspective through consumer expectations to a farmer and veterinary viewpoint.  The programme also has an international element with speakers from Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, who will present on their experience in addressing various dimensions of the antimicrobial resistance issue in their countries.

What is AMR?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by that microorganism. Resistant microorganisms (including bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites) are able to withstand attack by antimicrobial drugs, such as antibacterial drugs (e.g., antibiotics), antifungals, antivirals, and antimalarials, so that standard treatments become ineffective and infections persist, increasing the risk of spread to others.

The evolution of resistant strains is a natural phenomenon that occurs when microorganisms replicate themselves erroneously or when resistant traits are exchanged between them. The use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs accelerates the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Poor infection control practices, inadequate sanitary conditions and inappropriate food-handling encourages the further spread of AMR.

What is the effect of AMR?

A recent European Commission report estimated that drug-resistant bacteria are now responsible for about 25,000 human deaths per annum in the EU alone, with associated healthcare costs and productivity losses of €1.5b. The Commission also estimated that approx. 4m patients are estimated to acquire a health-care associated infection in the EU every year.

What is the Department of Agriculture's AMR strategy?

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's AMR strategy is based on a prudent and responsible usage policy and includes prohibiting advertising of antibiotics and restricting use exclusively to situations where they have been prescribed by a veterinary practitioner in respect of animals under his/her care.

DAFM has also been collecting data to monitor AMR development and spread in animals and food since 2004 in line with EU Directives. In addition DAFM has provided significant R&D funding on various AMR projects, which examine the link between usage of antimicrobials in the animal sector and the implications for AMR.

The Department is also aiming to increase education and awareness in the agri-food sector in relation to AMR such as through today's event.

View this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 176/2014 (pdf 137Kb) 


Date Released: 24 November 2014