Stakeholder position paper: epidemiological perspectives on antibiotic use in animals

Singer RS, Reid-Smith R, Sischo WM
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 73:153-161

Epidemiologists studying antimicrobial resistance are often interested in analyzing the association between antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use in animals, and on the impact of antimicrobial use in animals on the occurrence of resistance in bacteria affecting human populations. Given the various potential antimicrobial use data sources, it seems likely there will be some variability in the utility of the data for interpreting trends in antimicrobial resistance and investigating the relationship between antimicrobial use in animals and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria affecting human health. From an epidemiologic perspective, the major issues related to incorporation of antimicrobial use data into antimicrobial resistance monitoring programs are the further development of epidemiologic methods for collecting, quantifying, analyzing and interpreting use data; an open and realistic consideration of the limitations of the data; developing an understanding of scaling, temporal and spatial heterogeneity issues; and the interpretative problems of ecologic and atomistic fallacy. Given the many potential biases in antimicrobial use data, attempts to relate levels of antimicrobial use to levels of antimicrobial resistance should be done with caution until the data are better understood and the aforementioned issues have been addressed.