Addressing one of the most important emerging health issues of the century, a team of veterinary epidemiologists at Colorado State University has devised a first-of-its-kind survey to assess the use of antibiotics by veterinary professionals.
"There is no evidence that veterinarians in this country are using antibiotics injudiciously, but there has been no study or survey done on the attitudes and opinions of veterinarians in private practice on this issue," said Dr. Paul Morley, the veterinary epidemiologist leading the project. "We felt we needed to take the pulse of the profession on this topic. This can help us determine the type and frequency of drugs being used and the types of problems for which they are being prescribed. We should also be able to consider where responsibilities should be divided-with the veterinarians, the drug companies and government agencies."
The survey has been sent to 14,000 practicing veterinarians nationwide and results will provide important information that could help guide national, regional and local policy issues on antibiotic use. Although the focus has been on food animals, the survey is being sent to practitioners in other species groups as well. Food animal, equine and companion animal veterinarians are being asked to participate in this campaign to gather specific information regarding how, when, and which drugs are being used in animals.
Antibiotic drug resistance has become a hot issue, according to the number of recent stories in the trade and general press. Federal agencies have proposed increasing limitations on the use of antibiotics in food animals out of concern for the impact on human health. The suggestion has been that, due to overuse, humans and other species have developed a resistance to many of the most popular antibiotics due to overuse.
Although there is no question that antibiotic resistance occurs, Morley’s survey is the first to examine the role played by veterinary medicine, in addition to other sources.
"There is no question that the data we retrieve from this survey will be of value to both animal and human health industries," Morley said. "We believe it is possible for veterinarians to use antimicrobial drugs to promote health and production in animals and remain effective stewards of public health."
Morley said results should be compiled and released by the end of the year.