The fight against antibiotic resistance is a major and global public health challenge. The decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics affects the health of humans, animals and ecosystems, the health of all being interconnected and forming one whole.
In the domain of animal health, France’s commitment to meet this challenge is the Ecoantibio plan. This plan falls in line with the international recommendations of the World Animal Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It also is part of the framework of the agroecology project of the French Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests.
The issues involved in this plan are the sustainable modification of antibiotic prescription practices, improving the living conditions of animals as well as the access to effective and economical health products other than antibiotics.
The first Ecoantibio plan was implemented during the period of 2012-2016. It including 40 actions grouped on five strategic axes with an overall objective of a 25% reduction of antibiotic use on animals over five years. The Law on the Future of Agriculture in 2013 added a second goal, a 25% reduction in the use of critical antibiotics in animals during a period of three years (2014-2016).
This first plan was an overall success. The goals for antibiotic use reduction are well on their way to being met (the data for 2016 is not yet available). During the first four years of the plan, the exposure of animals to antibiotics decreased by 20%, while the use of critical antibiotics on animals dropped 21% in only two years.
In order to keep this positive dynamic going forward, the creation and implementation of a new plan is necessary. This is the objective of the Ecoantibio 2 plan, grouped around 20 actions on four strategic axes.
The Ecoantibio 2 plan, similar to the Ecoantibio 1 plan, is more oriented toward incentive measures than regulations. Communication and training take up a significant part of the plan, as well as providing access to alternatives to antibiotics, improving preventive measures for infectious diseases, and providing better diagnostic tools for antibiotic resistance. The plan will last for five years, from 2017 to 2021.
Finally, the Ecoantibio 2 plan joins with other public policies and complements them in the animal sector. Particularly, the Ecoantibio 2 plan integrates actions led by the Ministry of Health with those led by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture’s agroecology plan.
The reduction in the use of antibiotic therapy largely results from disease prevention at each step of animal management. This depends on numerous factors that can be modified by different approaches based on best practices, including reducing the introduction and spread of pathogenic agents with biosecurity measures, and improving the ability of animals to react to pathogens through better animal welfare practices.