“The goal of the task force is to advise the U.S. government on a research agenda and also help publicly disseminate information about the use of antibiotics in production agriculture,” said task force member Thomas G. Coon, vice president, dean and director of Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
Officials from key federal agencies are expected to serve as observers to the task force and leaders from public universities in Mexico and Canada will serve as ex officio members, as will representatives of the APLU and AAVMC.
“The collective expertise and experience of its members will allow the task force to serve as a knowledgeable source of information and insight,” Coon said.
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have expressed concerns about some bacteria having developed defenses against different classes of antibiotic compounds.
In addition, President Obama has issued an executive order describing antibiotic resistant bacteria as a national security priority and directing various executive branch departments and agencies to develop a specific plan of action to address the issue by mid-February.
“As leaders in agricultural animal production and well-being, we must provide sound and appropriate care when considering the use of antibiotics in rearing animals for food production, keeping in mind that the problem did not develop solely as the result of antibiotic use in animals,” said Dr. Jean Sander, dean of OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.
Sander added antibiotics are developed from naturally occurring substances in the environment and contact of bacteria in that environment may result in some level of resistance even without use in animals.
“Also, the use of these medications in human medicine to treat viral diseases that are not affected by antibiotics must be included as part of a holistic approach to any regulations in this area,” she said. “To accurately define the scope of this problem, all antibiotic use must be reviewed.”
Andrew T. Maccabe, AAVMC executive director and ex officio task force member, said his organization looks forward to collaborating with the APLU and federal government on what he calls “this critical issue,” noting many of the AAVMC’s member institutions are based at land-grant universities such as Oklahoma State.
APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization representing 237 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations. Founded in 1887, APLU is North America’s oldest higher-education association with member institutions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, four U.S. territories, Canada and Mexico.
AAVMC is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect and improve the health and welfare of animals, people and the environment by advancing academic veterinary medicine. Members include all 35 veterinary medical colleges in the United States and Canada, as well as 14 international colleges of veterinary medicine and seven departments of comparative medicine, among others.