UMN doctors, veterinarians take on antibiotic resistance

A new group is working on gathering data on how antibiotics are used in Minnesota.

Olivia Johnson

To help staunch the growing concern over resistant diseases, the Minnesota Department of Health launched the Minnesota One Health Antibiotic Stewardship Collaborative, which began work in December.

Two million people in the United States each year contract diseases resistant to antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The initiative brings together medical professionals and the agriculture industry to gather data on how antibiotics in Minnesota are used, information that can be hard to track in animals.

Amanda Beaudoin, the collaborative’s director and a former employee at the CDC, said the idea for the group came from state agricultural organizations and MDH, who noticed a gap between groups working to develop a way to use antibiotics responsibly.

The groups are working on a five-year plan and are made up of volunteers from the state, the University of Minnesota, veterinarians, doctors or representatives from agricultural companies.

The plan will be carried out by four workgroups with specific goals, like public engagement, animal stewardship, human antibiotic stewardship and the environmental impacts of antibiotics.

Susan Kline, a professor in the medical school, is the physician leader for the antimicrobial stewardship team at the University and was invited to join the collaborative last year.

In animal health, she said bigger steps are being taken to limit antibiotic use for treating infections.

“It’s not just use in humans,” Kline said. “If you really want to make an impact, you have to look at the total picture.”

Jennifer Granick, assistant professor of veterinary clinical science at the University, focuses on small animal internal medicine and teaches classes on infectious diseases in cats and dogs.

As a veterinarian, she said she often sees antibiotic resistant diseases in animals referred to the University’s animal clinic. For those cases, she said she prescribes medications that come with intense side effects that wouldn’t be necessary with nonresistant diseases.

The group is gathering data, specifically in antibiotic use for animals, to allow for overall analysis of what medications are being used and how, she said.

“That’s a really big challenge in veterinary medicine,” she said.

Unlike human medicine, she said, there aren’t regulations to track antibiotic use, and if a veterinarian does try to track data, it can be costly and time-consuming.

Granick added that this change has to take place on a global level, which is what the collaborative is about.

“It’s those people who are committed to work on this who will … make sure that the activities and goals set out in the strategic plan are met,” Beaudoin said. “We know that everyone has problems in how they use antibiotics, and everyone can improve.”

Another focus for the collaborative is engaging with the public, she said, adding that everyone has a role when it comes to proper use of antibiotics.

The group also wants to act as a resource for caregivers and food producers who want to responsibly use antibiotics and adhere to new regulations from the FDA, she said.

“I think it’s a very important issue for us as a state,” Kline said. “We’re seeing emerging resistance to frequently used antibiotics.”

When a patient contracts a disease that is resistant to antibiotics, doctors have fewer tools to combat those diseases, Kline said.

“We’d like to limit that as much as possible,” she said.

Antimicrobial drugs are prescribed 25 to 50 percent more often than needed for humans, Kline said.

“We’ve got some big problems and we need some questions answered,” she said. “The more you use antibiotics, the more likely we are to see resistance emerge. That’s the history of antibiotics since day one.”