AMR and animal health in Australia

Food producing animals in Australia have not become resistant to antibiotics important to human medicine. This is because we have effective steps in place to prevent and manage antimicrobial resistance in food producing animals.

What is Australia doing about the use of antimicrobials in food producing animals?

  • Australia has measures in place to prevent and manage antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in food producing animals. These include antimicrobial stewardship resources for veterinarians and food producing animal industries:
    • Steps and principles for good antimicrobial stewardship in food producing animal industries,
  • Antimicrobial information and mitigating use in food producing animal industries. Australia has not registered the following antibiotics for use in food producing animals:
    • fluoroquinolones (important antibiotics for human medicine)
    • colistin (a last resort antibiotic for humans)
    • fourth generation cephalosporins (a last resort antibiotic for humans).
  • As a result, food animals in Australia have not become resistant to these antibiotics important to human medicine.
  • Government and industry collect data to monitor AMR in pigs, chicken meat, chicken eggs and salmon.
  • In 2014, the Australian Government commissioned a report on antibiotic resistance and use in Australian livestock and agriculture industries. The report provided direction for planning future surveillance and reporting of AMR in Australia.

How does Australia’s use of antimicrobials compare to other countries?

  • Australia has one of the most conservative approaches in the world to the use of antimicrobials in food producing animals.
  • Australia is a world leader in minimising the use of antibiotics in food producing animals.
  • In a 2015 United Kingdom review, Australia was ranked the fifth-lowest for antibiotic use in agriculture among the 29 countries examined.

Who controls antimicrobials for animal use in Australia?

  • The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) evaluates and registers antimicrobials for animal use in Australia. This involves a risk assessment, including the risk of AMR developing.
  • Nearly all antimicrobials used in animals are Schedule 4 medicines, meaning a veterinarian must prescribe them.
  • Veterinary surgeons’ boards exist in each state and territory in Australia. Each board controls the practice of veterinary science in line with state or territory laws. This includes how veterinarians use, prescribe and supply antimicrobials.
  • By law, states and territories are responsible for controlling the use of all veterinary medicines.

Where can I find information about antimicrobials for animal use?

Do animals in Australia carry bacteria resistant to antimicrobials?

  • A number of surveys done in Australia in recent years show a low risk of AMR in the food animal sector.
  • A survey of bacteria in healthy animals was published in 2007. The researchers found very low levels of resistance to antimicrobials used to treat people.
  • Studies in 2015 and 2017 did not find bacteria from cattle resistant to antibiotics important in human medicine.
  • E. coli bacteria from companion and food animals show a very low resistance to antimicrobials important for human medicine.

Is food from animals safe to eat in Australia?

Research found bacteria in food had low levels of resistance to the majority of antibiotics. This included whole poultry, pork chops, beef mince and iceberg lettuce. Also, the bacteria in food showed no or little resistance to antibiotics important for human medicine. These medicines included the quinolone class of drugs and third and fourth generation cephalosporins.

What can I do?

Everyone can play a role in protecting Australia against AMR.

If you are a researcher or project leader, register your current AMR activities on the research and activity hub.

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