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Wales’ Innovative Approach Faces up to the AMR Challenge

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A year on from its launch, a Welsh programme designed to address the spread of antibiotic resistance in animals and the environment in Wales has made exciting progress.

The Arwain DGC (Defnydd Gwrthficrobaidd Cyfrifol / Responsible Antimicrobial Use) programme highlights the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  Through training, applying new technology, data gathering, and improving understanding, the programme helps farmers, equine keepers and vets in Wales reduce the need to use antibiotics, so reducing the risk of AMR development.

In the run-up to the annual World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (November 18-24), the Arwain DGC programme has delivered many of its world-leading initiatives.

Several of the programme work streams have already yielded important new knowledge of AMR development and spread and revealed – often simple – practices to prevent disease and the need to use antibiotics.

The Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths said:

“Arwain DGC’s projects are a great example of the innovative approaches being taken in Wales to safeguard antibiotics for future use against infection for humans and animals. Their work with our farmers, equine keepers and vets is helping reduce the need to use antibiotics to ensure when they are required, they work effectively and reduce the risk of resistance.”

Partnership is key to addressing the AMR challenge, and Arwain DGC brings together key farming and veterinary organisations and highly skilled scientists to develop and pilot new technologies, gather essential data, and build sustainable processes for antimicrobial stewardship and AMR control.

The wide-ranging programme includes: 

  • Establishing 12 “Proof of Concept” farms and trialling cutting-edge agri-tech
  • Expansion of the successful Veterinary Prescribing Champions network
  • Trialling the use of a risk assessment app to protect the health of farm animals
  • Creation of a farm Antimicrobial Usage (AMU) calculator
  • Collecting and analysing samples to determine how AMR can spread from sheep and cattle farms
  • Improved knowledge of disease patterns in farmed animals in Wales though collection and analysis of information from veterinary practices
  • 150 1-2-1 equine health clinics, to help owners keep their horses and ponies healthy and free of infection.
  • Development of veterinary-led guidelines and code of conduct for use and supply of antibiotics by farm vets in Wales
  • Leading on sharing the latest knowledge on infection prevention and control, and on the responsible use of antibiotics

Arwain DGC Programme Manager, Dewi Hughes, said,

“We are stronger together. Working with other key organisations within the agricultural sector and collaborating with public health is fundamental to addressing the AMR challenge.

“During the last 12 months, the programme has made significant achievements, but there’s still more to do over the next months and years on this developing challenge.”

Since its inception, Arwain DGC has achieved several of its goals. Among them is supporting 51 Veterinary Prescribing Champions covering almost 90% of practices covering beef and sheep farming in Wales – some 9.5 million sheep and 1.1 million cattle.

While, with the rollout of a specially created AMU calculator to standardise data, antimicrobial usage will be monitored on over 4,500 beef and sheep farms across Wales.

Also, more than 1,000 farm environmental samples have been collected and analysed for AMR, and a voluntary Active AMR surveillance programme for Wales is being drawn up.

Arwain DGC is closely aligned to the Welsh Government’s five-year AMR in Animals and the Environment Implementation Plan (2019 – 2024). The programme has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

To learn more about what Arwain DGC is doing to address this global challenge go to www.arwaindgc.wales or follow @ArwainDGC