Experts say a new strategy to decrease antimicrobial resistance in South Africa should not be seen as a witch hunt, but rather a way to ensure future generations also have access to antimicrobial substances.
The strategic document against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was available for comment until 30 April.
The aim of the plan, which forms part of the Antimicrobial Resistance National Strategy Framework, is to provide a structure to manage AMR and limit potential future resistance.
The department advises comprehensive changes in the approach to counter AMR. This includes a review of the registered antimicrobial adjuvants, as well as certain legal changes covering a comprehensive review of the Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act (Act 36 of 1947).
The revision of the act will take place after thorough research to determine the impact of possible changes on the animal feed industry.
In its report, the department said the use of antimicrobial substances must comply with international standards.
The standards cover training for veterinary personnel, as well as annual reports on the use of antimicrobial substances, taken from information provided by the South African Revenue Service.
No witch hunt
Dr Pieter Vervoort, head of the National Animal Health Forum said the proposed changes should not be seen as a witch hunt.
“The regulation and application of the AMR strategy is about the responsible use of antimicrobials and not about ending the use of these substances. They are too important for that,” said Vervoort.
“The plan is to put in place regulations so future generations will also have access to this helpful tool.”
Vervoort said the strategy is to facilitate cooperation between animal health and human health doctors.
“In the past, cooperation between the two disciplines was not optimal. This situation creates an opportunity for better cooperation since AMR is not restricted to animal health only. This enables us to develop a better strategy for antimicrobial use.”
SA regulations already in place
Vervoort emphasized that South Africa deals much better with antibiotic use than many other countries.
“With regards to antimicrobial substances, South Africa had regulations in place before AMR was an issue. A lot of countries never had these regulations in place and now have to start. From our side, we want to ensure that our regulations are according to the standards of amongst others the World Organisation of Animal Health.”