The antibiotic colistin will be discontinued for animal health use, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has announced.

The minister said today (Friday, April 9) that the Animal Health Implementation Committee – under Ireland’s National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance (iNAP) – has endorsed a statement of intent to cease the use of colistin in the animal health sector.

“This voluntary agreement by stakeholders is testimony to the commitment of the agri-sector in addressing AMR [antimicrobial resistance] and I acknowledges the importance of colistin in treating life-threatening bacterial infections that cause significant mortality and morbidity in human healthcare,” the minister said.

Minister McConalogue noted that the agreement “underlines the commitment” to address concerns in relation to “responsible use of antimicrobials in animals”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has included colistin in a list of ‘Highest Priority Critically Important Antimicrobials’.

The minister called the decision on colistin “timely”, with the EU Veterinary Medicines and Medicated Feed Regulations due to come into effect in January 2022.

“These new regulations place key emphasis on addressing antimicrobial resistance. The clear shift at European level is to drive cultural change in using medicines only when necessary and focus more on preventative measures,” he said.

By veterinary practitioners and farmers working together to improve animal health and ceasing to use colistin, this proactive approach will protect the effectiveness of this antimicrobial of last resort in human health.

Minister McConalogue argued that antimicrobials are essential medicines for human and animal health and welfare, and that development and spread of resistance is influenced by the usage of antimicrobials in both human and animals.

“In order to successfully address AMR the primary goal of the agri-food sector must be to continuously work on achieving and maintaining the highest possible standards in animal health and thus reducing antimicrobial usage,” he said.

The minister concluded: “I welcome this measure…and I look forward to launching the next iteration of iNAP later this year and building on the progress achieved so far as we work in partnership.”