FVS: excessive use of antibiotics puts human and animal health at risk

Antimicrobial resistance that appears as a result of often consumption of antibiotics presents a major threat to human and animal health, said Māris Balodis, director general of Latvia’s Food and Veterinary Service, at the conference «Together against antimicrobial resistance».

According to him, one particular principle of good health has been known for years, and this principle is based on the idea that it is impossible to ensure human health without also taking care of animals’ health.

Balodis said antimicrobial resistance presents a major threat for human and animal health because micro-organisms know no borders – they freely pass between countries and different living organisms. For this reason alone it is not enough for the resistance matter to be addressed by one portion of society or one sector – combating antimicrobial resistance requires cooperation between human and animal health specialists, added Balodis.

He admits that one major challenge for countries around the world is reducing the use of antibiotics to ensure animal health. He said healthy animals do not require antibiotics, which is why it is important to think about providing healthy feed, comply with hygiene requirements, protect animals from diseases and monitor compliance with bio-security requirements.

According to him, use of antibiotics to ensure animal health in Latvia is not a common practice. Nevertheless, to reduce their use and the threat of antimicrobial resistance, it is necessary to introduce principles for responsible and careful use of antibiotics. Education plays a major role here. This is why it is important to have knowledgeable doctors, farmers and consumers, he says.

He stresses that performing regular health checks and preventive measures is better than undergoing treatment for different illnesses. This is why it is important to remind residents of this every now and then.

Acting state secretary to Healthcare Ministry Daina Mūrmane-Umbraško said antimicrobial resistance is important not only for healthcare but also food a veterinary sector. With that, she welcomes cooperation between Healthcare Ministry and Agriculture Ministry to find a solution.

Mūrmane-Umbraško explained that antibiotics helped save countless lives in the 30s of the previous century. However, people often forget about the bad sides of it. Excessive use of antibiotics creates antimicrobial resistance, which causes around 33,000 deaths in Europe every year. 75% of these cases are related to healthcare.

She said reduction of consumption of antibiotics does not require considerable financial resources. It does, however, require wide discussions regarding the importance of washing hands and using flu vaccination.

Mūrmane-Umbraško stresses that antimicrobial resistance creates considerable costs for healthcare and unfortunate side-effects for patients.

According to the ministry’s representative, Latvia is not among the leading countries when it comes to use of antibiotics, which is good. It is the ministry’s goal, nonetheless, to keep antibiotics consumption levels low or reduce them further. At the same time, it is important to involve at least two sectors in this matter – healthcare and food and veterinary sector. These two industries have already formed successful cooperation.

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