Is Additional Surveillance Data on Antimicrobial Use In Food Animals (Or Any Public Health Parameter) Useful?

October 2012

by H. Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD

Written by Scott Hurd, Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, this Policy Forum discusses the current health problem related to the increasing number of human illnesses that are caused by bacteria resistant to common antimicrobials. In response to FDA’s call for more data on antimicrobial sales in food animals, Hurd explores the question:  Will more data on food animal microbial use (FAAU), the first step in this causal pathway, help us reduce public health harm and/or conversely increase public health good? Hurd asserts that in order for surveillance data such as FAAU to be informative, at least three issues must be addressed: 1) data quality as directed by a clear hypothesis or decision criteria; 2) comparator data; and 3) attribution.

Hurd recommends that FDA evaluate data quality in light of a clear decision or hypothesis, devote equal energy and resources to comparative data sources, improve resistance surveillance with programs such as the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, conduct detailed field trials measuring the association between specific FAAU and the creation of resistant populations above the already existing background level, and improve attribution estimates on the relationship between food animals and foodborne illness.

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