The European Commission has asked the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to assess the impact of antibiotics used in animals on public health and animal health.

This new assessment is in response to the rising concern about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), whereby the body becomes resistant to certain antibiotics, rendering them ineffective.

After making its assessment the EMA will be asked to give advice on measures to manage the possible risk to human health that arises from the use of antibiotics given to animals.

The agency’s advice will be delivered in a step-wise approach, with the first outcome requested by June 2013 and the assessment and relevant advice to be completed by 2014.

Antibiotics are a key component in modern day medicine and have dramatically reduced the number of deaths arising from infectious diseases since their inception 70 years ago. Without antibiotics many treatments such as chemotherapy and transplants would not be possible or would be much more dangerous.

However, overcoming antimicrobial resistance, which is thought to be made greater through overuse of antibiotics, is one of the medical world’s biggest dilemmas and greatest threats.

The European Commission believes that appropriate use of antibiotics must take place in both human and veterinary healthcare to be effective, a measure of which the EMA will establish.

The EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use (CVMP) and the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) will work together on the project and the agency will set up a multidisciplinary working group made up of experts from both committees, and from the CVMP Antimicrobials Working Party and the CHMP Infectious Diseases Working Party.

The group will also seek the advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and any other additional expertise required.

Image: After its assessment the EMA will provide advice on the use of antibiotics in animals. Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen.