University of Bristol: New Welsh animal project launched to combat antimicrobial resistance

Arwain DGC (Defnydd Gwrthfaicrobaidd Cyfrifol) Cymru is at the forefront of the drive to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR is classed as a global “One Health” challenge and there are calls for urgent multisectoral action. AMR has been described by The World Health Organisation as an issue where “without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

Arwain DGC comprises of a schedule of activities and brings together experienced collaborators to deliver a wide-ranging programme addressing AMR in animals and the environment. Included are key Welsh agricultural stakeholders (Menter a Busnes, Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers Ltd and Welsh Agricultural Organisation Society), academic institutions (University of Bristol and Aberystwyth University School of Veterinary Science) and veterinary delivery partners (Iechyd Da and Milfeddygon Gogledd Cymru).

Closely aligned to the Welsh Government’s five-year AMR in Animals and the Environment Implementation Plan (2019 – 2024). This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Arwain DGC builds on the pioneering work of an earlier project – Arwain Vet Cymru (AVC) – which focused on improving antibiotic prescribing in cattle and sheep through a Wales-wide network of Veterinary Prescribing Champions. AVC’s work has subsequently become the blueprint for similar schemes across the UK and globally.

The overall Arwain DGC project is led by Menter a Busnes (MaB), with each partner responsible for specialist elements of its delivery.

MaB Animal Health Services Manager, Dewi Hughes, said: “We look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders in trialling and developing new techniques to control and manage the use of antimicrobials to help safeguard their future use for animals and humans.”

Don Thomas of Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers Ltd (WLBP) said the organisation was eager to play its part in this important project.

He added: “WLBP will participate by further developing digital tools to collect, store, manage and analyse key data on antibiotic usage (and in particular for the critically important antibiotics) from our 7,000+ livestock farmer members in Wales.

“We firmly believe that managing and supplying this data will provide an important future marketing opportunity to our farmer members.”

Welcoming Arwain DGC’s launch, Robert Smith of Iechyd Da said the project was a natural continuation and expansion of the original AVC programme.

He added: “Iechyd Da’s projects within the scheme include the development of a biosecurity app for vets and collecting syndromic surveillance data from member practices in Wales in collaboration with the Welsh Veterinary Science Centre.

“Member practices will also actively participate in the further development of the Veterinary Prescribing Champions Network and assist with the collection of on-farm samples to understand the relationship between AMR and antimicrobial use on Welsh farms.”

Dr Gwen Rees of Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science and winner of last year’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s Impact Award for her leadership of AVC’s Veterinary Prescribing Champions Network will further develop this work, creating national prescribing guidelines for cattle and sheep, developing a voluntary code of conduct for antimicrobial prescribing and understanding patterns of antimicrobial in the equine industry.

She said: “I’m delighted to be able to continue and build upon the important work of AVC and our dedicated network of Veterinary Prescribing Champions across Wales. We’ve made huge progress already in improving antibiotic prescribing among farm animals in Wales, and it’s exciting to take this to the next level.”

Furthering their global leadership on understanding associations between antimicrobial use and AMR on farms and designing an active surveillance programme for Wales are Professors Kristen Reyher and Matthew Avison and their teams, part of Bristol AMR at the University of Bristol.

Kristen Reyher, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Population Health at Bristol Veterinary School, said: “The University of Bristol is delighted to be involved in this important work in Wales, sharing knowledge from similar programmes of work we have led in England, Thailand and Argentina.

“The AVC programme was designed at Bristol following on from a project initiated by Iechyd Da and we are glad to be able to extend its impact by further investigating the microbiology and epidemiology of AMR on Welsh farms with a great team of leaders across Welsh agriculture.”

Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths said: “I am extremely proud that the Welsh Government has been able to sponsor such an exciting and innovative piece of work.

“This will place Wales at the forefront of the task of addressing the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This project includes a number of interventions being piloted here in Wales, many for the first time. The control of infectious diseases and the responsible use of antibiotics used to treat them, are in the hands of animal keepers and their veterinarians and we need a collective effort to make lasting changes to keep our animals healthy. This will reduce the need to use antibiotics, and ensure they are used appropriately when absolutely necessary. This work builds on and contributes towards the delivery of our Animal and Environment AMR Implementation Plan.

“The lessons we learn will shape our approach to addressing AMR, helping to protect the health and wellbeing of our future generations.”

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