Addressing Societal Needs by Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

By Michael Lairmore

On July 11, 2017

In Dean’s Perspectives

“Infectious disease exists at this intersection between real science, medicine, public health, social policy, and human conflict.” — Andrea Barrett

As part of our school’s vision, we seek to address societal needs. In challenging ourselves to this daunting task of working to solve the most vexing problems our world faces, we find our people and programs drawn toward the interface of science, public health, and policy. In opening remarks at the recent G20 Conference, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, praised Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel for recognizing that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a major threat to the health of the world’s populations and the future of economies of the many countries.

He indicated that as many as 700,000 people worldwide are already dying each year because of drug-resistant infections and that the cumulative economic cost of AMR will reach 100 trillion dollars by 2050, a cost primarily borne by low and middle income countries. The Secretary-General went on to suggest that “by implementing existing international commitments and recommendations of the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Organization for Animal Health, countries can promote a more appropriate use of antimicrobials in a true ‘One Health’ framework.”

Antimicrobial resistance is an example of a major societal issue that our school has been making significant efforts to understand and combat. These efforts include forming partnerships with state and national organizations to inform stakeholders on a new Food and Drug Administration Guidance on the use of antimicrobials, to working with the California Veterinary Medical Association and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to develop evidence-based science policies in California to ensure the proper use of antimicrobials to advance animal health, while not overusing important human drugs for growth promotion as feed additives.

Dr. Terry Lehenbauer

Dr. Terry Lehenbauer, director of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, participated in a recent American Public and Land-grant University/American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Working Group to develop antimicrobial resistance curriculum learning outcomes, which were featured at a U.S. Capitol Hill Briefing. We have successfully competed for a new cooperative extension specialist faculty position focused on antimicrobial resistance research and outreach. This new faculty member will join a comprehensive group of faculty members who are studying AMR from multiple vantage points to address this important health threat.

The California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory (CAHFS) in Tulare, a diagnostic laboratory devoted to protecting farm animals, the food supply and the public against new and emerging diseases. The Tulare facility is one of four labs in the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, headquartered at UC Davis and operated for the state by the veterinary school to protect animal health and performance, and safeguard public health and the food supply.

Our California Animal Health and Food Safety laboratory diagnosticians and scientist are actively seeking ways to monitor drug-resistant bacteria in our food supply. Our scientists are using the latest technologies to genetically analyze food-borne pathogens, especially those that may be resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Our school has partnered with the Farm Foundation to bring together the state’s livestock and poultry producers, their feed suppliers and veterinarians to discuss the changing landscape of antibiotic drug use in food animals. Knowledge related to the proper use of antibiotics is then offered to our stakeholders throughout the State of California via our cooperative extension faculty through conferences, proceedings, and other public outreach efforts.

Collectively, our people and programs are on the front lines of counteracting AMR, exemplifying our vision to address this pressing societal need. In doing so, we are in lock-step with other G20 countries committed to promoting the appropriate use of antimicrobials through a One Health approach.

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