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Disseminating Innovative Solutions for Antibiotic Resistance Management

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DISARM (Disseminating Innovative Solutions for Antibiotic Resistance Management)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2020-06-30

The rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria poses a severe threat to safeguarding both human and animal health and welfare in the future. Due to inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and livestock farming, pathogenic bacteria become resistant against different types of antibiotics, leaving fewer options for successful treatment of infections by these resistant bacteria. Furthermore, the risk is real that resistant bacteria get transferred between humans and animals in both directions. To limit this spread of antibiotic resistance it is therefore very important to reduce the use of antibiotics to a prudent and safe application in order to maintain the efficacy of the drugs for the benefit of both human and animal health and welfare. To shift towards more responsible and prudent use of antibiotics, effort is needed to adopt new techniques and innovations and apply emerging knowledge to practice. The Horizon 2020 DISARM thematic network aims at assisting the European livestock industry to reduce its use of antibiotics to a prudent level by focusing on animal health and disease management to reduce the need for antibiotics. The assistance lies in the development of a network between relevant actors in the industry: farmers, veterinarians, farm advisors and suppliers, researchers and policy makers. The project aims at accelerating the exchange of knowledge, best practice, emerging techniques and innovations between these actors to speed up the transition of the livestock industry towards one that is even more focused on prevention, biosecurity, alternatives to antibiotics and limited but precise use of antibiotics. Therefore our activities focus on collecting best practice examples, new innovations and techniques relevant to the issue and promote and disseminate these to a broad audience. Knowledge and experience exchange is being organized both on- and off- line as well as on regional, national and international level. We believe in the power of team collaboration to improve livestock farming and thus promote the approach of establishing multi-actor farm health teams consisting of the farmer, the herd veterinarian and feed or farm advisors to collaborate on a concrete action plan to improve farm animal health.
We have established an online community of practice which actors from the livestock industry, researchers and policy makers can join to meet each other and discuss and exchange knowledge and experience. All discussions take place in the framework of 10 specific topics that relate to disease prevention, biosecurity, optimal housing and animal management and alternatives for and prudent use of antibiotics. A freely accessible database has been established as a repository for all relevant information on innovations, strategies and best practice that is available from research as well as from the industry. This database provides concise farmer friendly summaries with links to the original source of information. All information found in literature search, as well as interactions on the CoP and developing of best practice dissemination items get stored in this database to inspire and assist animal health professionals to work on farm and animal health improvement.
To promote the team collaboration in multi-actor farm health teams we have engaged so far with 39 farms to work as a team on a SMART defined farm action plan that needs to result in improvements of overall performance, better animal health in general, better biosecurity and disease prevention and as a consequence reduce the need for antibiotics. These pilot farms will act as showcases to promote this approach to the wider industry. Other animal health professionals that get inspired and willing to adopt this multi actor farm health team method in their own daily practice will be able to benefit from the practical DIY farm health team toolbox we are developing to assist easy adoption. Furthermore we plan to promote and explain this approach to other animal health professionals in specific workshops.
Since DISARM is a networking project aiming at widespread dissemination a lot of our efforts are focused on communication and dissemination. This way we have organized general communication to announce our project and expose it the to the wider EU community through press releases, a promotional video and an EU stakeholder event in December 2019, and presence on various social media channels. A mailing list has been established to send updates from the project to our readership in bi-monthly newsletters.
Our dissemination activities so far have been focused on producing concise practice abstracts and corresponding practice videos that explain and promote innovations, best practice and strategies to the livestock industry. So far about 57 abstracts and 35 practice videos have been produced. For the remainder of the project we plan to hold workshops with animal health professionals to organize knowledge and experience exchange as well as larger dissemination events and online webinars and workshops to disseminate further the knowledge collected so far and to collect even more information in the interactions with stakeholders.
So far we are pleased with the established online Community of Practice that has 416 members which is well beyond the target at 2 years into the project. This platform is valuable for connecting stakeholders in the EU and worldwide livestock sector to enable them to share knowledge and experience that can speed up the implementation of promising strategies and innovations that will transform the livestock industry to one fully focused on preventive veterinary medicine rather than relying on curative treatments. By the end of the project we hope and expect to increase the number of members well beyond the target of 600 whilst maintaining the current balance in stakeholders’ background in terms of profession, geographical spread and sector representation.
In some EU countries the collaboration for farm improvement between farmers, herd veterinarians and farm advisors has emerged already. However, even in those countries it can be more widely promoted and applied. In other member states, we feel privileged to pioneer and promote it. With the foreseen toolbox and corresponding workshops we expect to provide the necessary guidance for animal health professionals to adopt the approach in their daily practice. This way we hope to improve the traditional, rather linear transfer of knowledge and innovation from advisors to farmers and expect more coherent advice to farmers coming from various sources: herd veterinarians, feed advisors, farm suppliers, etc.
By the end of the project we hope that the DISARM website will have become a reference for EU livestock stakeholders where they know to find the resources they need to be inspired and obtain new knowledge on innovations and best practice they can apply to meet the challenge of reducing their use of antibiotics. To accomplish this objective, we will focus on multiple and various engagement with livestock industry stakeholders during both online and offline workshops, events, training and webinars. Furthermore, we work towards a sustainable legacy of the project that can either be continued by other EU projects focused on reducing antimicrobial use and resistance in livestock farming or a legacy that can evolve into a central EU information hub for reducing AMR and AMU in livestock farming.