by Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator, Agricultural Research Service
This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) observes the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), along with World Antibiotic Awareness Week and Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. In the United States, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections occur annually in nearly two million people causing more than 23,000 deaths.
Overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is a major factor leading to resistance development. That’s where NARMS comes into play. Since 1996, the group has provided key information about emerging bacterial resistance and led efforts to limit the spread of resistance.
USDA’s role in NARMS is monitoring and analyzing changes in antibiotic resistance on farms and in food-processing plants. Scientists with ARS—USDA’s chief in-house scientific research agency—investigate antibiotic resistance in animals, fish, water, air, soil, manure and plants. For example, ARS animal-health experts reduce drug resistance by developing antibiotic alternatives. ARS food-safety experts study bacterial resistance to antimicrobial agents used to protect the food chain. ARS engineers and microbiologists examine soil for antibiotic drug residue and for resistant bacteria and genes. Concurrently, scientists with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) collect slaughterhouse samples and evaluate them for antibiotic resistance.
USDA takes a “One Health” approach to antimicrobial resistance research. The One Health approach embraces the idea that human, animal, and environmental health is critically interconnected and requires a strong commitment among scientists across a wide variety of sectors and disciplines. USDA’s “One Health” Joint Working Group is co-chaired by Steven Kappes, ARS Associate Administrator for National Programs. Through public-private and interagency partnerships, ARS develops innovative alternatives to antibiotics, such as animal vaccines, enhancement of the immune system, and antibody therapies, according to Kappes.
ARS’s interdisciplinary approach strengthens the network of “One Health” efforts to develop and implement antimicrobial-resistance solutions for healthy people, healthy animals and a healthy environment.
Read more about the 20th anniversary of NARMS in the November 2016 issue of AgResearch.