Reducing health risks from anti-microbial resistance in aquaculture
The development of resistant strains of disease-causing microorganisms is an important health issue of global concern. When microbes such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses become resistant to antimicrobial substances, the diseases they may cause become more difficult or impossible to treat. Resistance is developed by the indiscriminate use of antimicrobials and places human health at risk.
The discovery of antibiotics revolutionised medicine, creating a belief that a 'magic bullet' had finally been found to control bacterial diseases. Antibiotics, a class of antimicrobial agents, kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, but they have no significant effect on other types of microorganisms such as viruses.
"Bacteria, the oldest life form on this planet have survived 4 billion years due to their remarkable ability to adapt to changes in their environment... any 'resistance' gene present in any member of any species in the microbiome has the potential to transfer to any other species" says Dr Peter Smith of Ireland.
National delegates representing China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam; fish health experts from India, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Viet Nam and the United States; and representatives of the Government of India, Nitte University, FAO, NACA and the OIE are participating at an international workshop to address antimicrobial use (AMU) and AMR in aquaculture, convened by FAO and Nitte University, in Mangalore, India, 10-12 April.
Dr J.K. Jena, Deputy Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, highlighted the importance of aquaculture and the need to address issues related to diseases and the irresponsible use of veterinary drugs. "Strengthening laboratory networks and increasing AMU/AMR awareness as well as research on safety, efficacy and withdrawal period, resistance mode and process of transfer of resistance for different antimicrobials are needed", he said.
In his Presidential Address, the Vice-Chancellor of Nitte University, Professor Ramananda Shetty, urged interdisciplinary studies to be undertaken as all sectors have a responsibility towards this burning problem. He emphasised the need for regulation of antibiotic sales, responsible implementation of treatment regimens by the doctors and diligent attention to medical advice by the patients.
The complexity of the issue calls for a "One Health" platform involving both human medicine and the agriculture sector in an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to tackle what is very much a common problem. This approach combined with concerted actions at the national level that span policy and regulatory spheres, preventive actions and engagement with producers and other food value chain stakeholders are needed to prevent and reduce AMR.
Detailed guidance was provided on developing the aquaculture component of the National Action Plans on AMR covering the four focus areas of FAO's Action Plan on AMR: awareness, governance, evidence (usage and surveillance) and practice (prudent use). National delegates will further develop the action plans, disseminate the scientific information delivered during the workshop and create awareness of AMR issues among national stakeholders.