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Ethics of animal-only antimicrobials as a novel approach to emerging infectious disease control from a One Health perspective

4 months
Approved budget:
Miss Maeve Cleary
Dr Mike King
Associate Professor Lynley Anderson
Proposal type:
Ethics Summer Studentships
Lay summary
From a One Health perspective, is the use of separate antimicrobials in humans and animals an ethical approach to control of emerging infectious disease? Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is regarded as one of the biggest threats to global human health. Infectious disease may be rendered untreatable due to AMR, because the current rate of resistance to antimicrobials is faster than their discovery. Animals and humans are currently treated using the same antimicrobials, with animals accounting for over half of this consumption globally. Animal usage is therefore a driver of AMR affecting human health. However, antimicrobials are being developed which are safe and effective for animals, but are unavailable to humans due to toxicity. Their use in animals could sever the AMR link between human and antimicrobial use. OH is a valuable approach in understanding and managing emerging infectious disease (EID). It describes the relationship of health between humans, animals, and the environment, meaning what happens in one can affect others. One Health is considered one of, if not the most, effective approach for controlling EIDs. For this reason, the OH approach will be used in this research to evaluate the ethics of using separate antimicrobials in humans and animals. This research will contribute to the Ethics Summer Studentship topic of “Ethics and infectious disease”. The use of animal-specific antimicrobials could reduce the consumption of human-available antimicrobials by animals, reducing the resistance developed. Moreover, the option it provides for infectious disease control in animals benefits animals, and, from a One Health perspective, could benefit humans as well. Differentiating antibiotics therefore aims to optimise healthcare in animals, while eliminating the risk of contributing to the AMR burden in people. Thus, this research will ethically inform scientific research which is aiming lessen the burden of AMR, or infectious disease.