April 2, 2015
On March 24th, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing regarding fiscal year 2016 appropriations for USDA’s Research, Education and Economics (REE) Mission Area. The REE Mission Area covers the Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agriculture Statistics Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. During the hearing, much attention was placed on the allegations of animal mistreatment at the US Meat Animal Research Center (US MARC). Members from both sides of the aisle expressed concerns and pressed USDA to ensure that animals are properly treated moving forward. Other major animal science related issues discussed include antibiotic resistance, avian influenza and swine PEDV.
FASS and all three founding societies were among 89 national and state organizations sending a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committees in support of $10 million in fiscal year 2016 for Sec. 1433, Continuing Animal Health and Disease, Food Security, and Stewardship Research, Education and Extension Programs. The program was expanded in the 2014 Farm Bill to include a competitive grants mechanism focusing on the FAIR 2012 priorities of food security, one health and stewardship.
The Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability (NELS), a part of the National Academy of Sciences is holding an event to launch of the report entitled The Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability. The event will take place at the National Academy of Sciences Building, Lecture Room 2101 Constitution Avenue NW Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. EDT. The report identifies areas of research and development, technology, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture, both nationally and internationally.
The session will include:
- A presentation by Bernard Goldstein, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and Chair of the report’s authoring committee;
- A panel discussion joined by Ann Bartuska, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and
- A Q&A session with Dr. Goldstein and a committee member Louis D’Abramo, Mississippi State University.
Those interested in attending can register by clicking here.
On Friday, March 27th, the Obama Administration released its National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (NAP). The NAP comes as a part of the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 13676: Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The Executive Order outlines steps for implementing the National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and addressing the policy recommendations of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)’s report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance.
The NAP outlines planned Federal activities over the next five years to enhance domestic and international capacity to prevent and contain outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant infections; maintain the efficacy of current and new antibiotics; and develop and deploy next-generation diagnostics, antibiotics, vaccines, and other therapeutics. These activities were included in the President’s FY 2016 Budget Proposal, which would direct more than $1.2 billion be invested in antibiotic resistance efforts.
The NAP identifies the following five key goals to address antibiotic resistance:
1. Slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections
The judicious use of antibiotics in health care and agriculture settings is essential to combating the rise in antibiotic resistance. We can help slow the emergence of resistant bacteria by being smarter about prescribing practices across all human and animal health care settings, and by continuing to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals.
2. Strengthen national "One-Health" surveillance efforts
A “One-Health” approach to disease surveillance will improve detection and control of antibiotic resistance by integrating data from multiple monitoring networks, and by providing high-quality information, such as detailed genomic data, necessary to tracking resistant bacteria in diverse settings in a timely fashion.
3. Advance development and use of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests
The development of rapid “point-of-need” diagnostic tests could significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use by allowing health care providers to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections, and identify bacterial drug susceptibilities during a single health care visit making it easier for providers to recommend appropriate, targeted treatment.
4. Accelerate basic and applied research and development
New antibiotics and alternative treatments for both humans and animals are critical to maintaining our capacity to treat and prevent disease. This involves supporting and streamlining the drug development process, as well as increasing the number of candidate drugs at all stages of the development pipeline. Additionally, boosting basic research to better understand the ecology of antibiotic resistance will help us develop effective mitigation strategies.
5. Improve international collaboration and capacities
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem that requires global solutions. The United States will engage with foreign ministries and institutions to strengthen national and international capacities to detect, monitor, analyze, and report antibiotic resistance; provide resources and incentives to spur the development of therapeutics and diagnostics for use in humans and animals; and strengthen regional networks and global partnerships that help prevent and control the emergence and spread of resistance.
In 2014, USDA published its Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan as a part of the overall effort under the Executive Order. USDA has indicated that it does not anticipate any new regulations under the Food Safety Inspection Service or Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as a result of the Executive Order.
Implementation of the NAP will be a long term effort for the federal government and will require engagement from the scientific community and industry. The Department of Health and Human Services is currently forming an advisory committee to help guide the government’s efforts and they are looking for a balance of experts including animal scientists with expertise in antibiotics, diagnostics and alternatives. More information about the advisory committee and how to submit a nomination can be found here. Nominations are due April 29th.
In response to concerns raised about animal care policies and procedures at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), USDA’s Agricultural Research Service convened an independent review panel to investigate USMARC and make recommendations on future animal care policies. The panel completed its work and released its report on March 9th.
The panel’s report includes seven recommendations to improve animal care operations at USMARC and cite the FASS Ag Guide numerous times. The panel’s findings and corresponding recommendations include:
There is a lack of clarity on specific lines of authority and responsibility for oversight in regards to animal care and welfare in the cooperative arrangement between USMARC and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
USMARC should develop and implement written agreements with UNL and any other research or teaching partners to ensure optimum lines of responsibility for the oversight of animal care and use in research and teaching activities.
At this time there is no evidence for a clearly defined animal handling training program with a corresponding method for documenting the completion of appropriate training.
USMARC should develop and implement an appropriate training and documentation program for all individuals involved with the handling and use of animals in research. An explicit component of this training should be clear directions on how to report concerns regarding animal welfare. Various available national training components can be used for this purpose. As an important component of training on how to report welfare concerns, individuals should be informed of “whistleblower” policies which protect individuals who choose to report concerns. Copies of the whistleblower policy and contact information for reporting animal welfare concerns should be clearly posted in all animal handling areas.
USMARC should extend the electronic medical records database to include all species housed at USMARC. This will assist in monitoring both individual and herd health of all animals, and provide assurance that animals are receiving the appropriate care.
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at USMARC was not adequately fulfilling its intended role of providing research oversight by reviewing and approving, requiring modifications in or denying proposed research activities. This is not compliant with ARS Policies and Procedures that call for facilities to follow the standards outlined in the Ag Guide.
USMARC should develop and implement processes that promote a robustly functioning IACUC that is consistent with the Ag Guide and with current practices in the field of animal research. Important components of complying with this recommendation include:
- Appropriate training for IACUC members on processes, requirements, and expectations.
- Properly convened meetings be held regularly, and that criteria be developed for what types of research proposals should receive additional review and discussion at IACUC meetings and those that may be appropriately reviewed by designated IACUC members outside of a convened meeting
- Development of a consistent IACUC review process that will review and evaluate the topics related to animal welfare as indicated by the Ag Guide.
- All individuals associated with animal care or research receive training on the role and importance of the IACUC in animal welfare and oversight.
- IACUC members should inspect all areas where animals are held, handled or used, even if animals are not present at the time of inspection.
No reviews of proposed research or facility inspections be conducted unless a properly constituted IACUC is in place.
The Panel suggests that the Attending Veterinarian should not serve as the chair of the USMARC IACUC.
Use of all vertebrate animals at USMARC should be reviewed and approved by the IACUC. This includes animals used solely for production and any non-livestock animals such as rodents.
The report concludes that, based upon the observations of the panel members no evidence of poor animal handling, animal abuse, or inadequate veterinary care was observed or identified. However, the facility was found to not be in full compliance with ARS policies and procedures in that the facility did not fully comply with the intent or guidance within the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animal is Research and Teaching (FASS Ag Guide), particularly in regards to the conduct and documentation of animal handling training programs and the conduct of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. ARS has indicated that it plans to immediately begin implementing the recommendations.
The draft report is available for public review and comment through March 18, 2015 and can be found by clicking here. The review panel will also hold a public hearing teleconference on March 18th to receive input and comments on the draft report. Click here to register for the meeting.
In addition to the review panel report, USDA has requested that the Inspector General conduct an investigation into the specific allegations of improper animal care at USMARC and ARS has appointed an Animal Welfare Ombudsman for the agency.