A new initiative to prevent antibiotic resistance to bacteria in animals and its spread in the environment has been set up in Wales.

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths announced that the Animal and Environment Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Delivery Group for Wales held its first meeting on Monday (May 13).

The group will aim to prevent and control infectious diseases in animals and ensure antibiotics are used responsibly in Wales.

It will also put together an implementation plan and put it into action over the next five years alongside public health counterparts in Wales.

The group’s goals for the next five years are to:

  • Reduce the need antibiotics in animals through prevention of infections;
  • Minimise the development and spread of antibiotic resistance in and the environment
  • Optimise the sustainable use of antibiotics in animals;
  • Ensure adequate surveillance capability to provide the information required to control antibiotic resistance; and
  • Collaborate with others to deliver effective antibiotics in the future.

The impacts of leaving AMR unchecked are wide-ranging and extremely costly, with officials warning that unless something is done, the world can expect about 10 million deaths a year from drug-resistant infections by the year 2050.

It is hoped that a co-ordinated approach between the Government, animal keepers and veterinarians will control the spread of infectious diseases and of the antibiotics that are used to treat them.

The Animal and Environment Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Delivery Group will report both to the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Group (WAHWFG) and the Wales Healthcare-associated infection / AMR Steering Group, chaired by the chief medical officer for Wales, with the Welsh chief veterinary officer as a member.

When completed, it will submit its implementation plan to Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths for consideration and adoption.

Members of the group include representatives from the farming industry, veterinary profession and Public Health Wales.

Minister Lesley Griffiths said: "I am pleased to set up this Group aimed at tackling the very concerning issue of Antimicrobial Resistance.

It is imperative we all work together to ensure every effort is made to prevent the spread of animal diseases and the most appropriate form of treatment is always used.

"The effects of AMR can be hugely disruptive and costly, not just to animal keepers and veterinarians but the wider community too.

"This is why we need guidance about how best to tackle the issue head-on, and I look forward to seeing the group’s recommendations."

It comes as moves have been made to set up a similar group in Northern Ireland.