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Leading pet owner awareness charity The Bella Moss Foundation is calling on animal lovers to join the fight against superbugs and antibiotic resistance.

Keeping an estimated nine million dogs, eight million cats and 1.2 million pet rabbits – not to mention 25 million indoor fish, the UK is proud to be known as a nation of animal lovers. However, many people do not that realise pets can also fall victim to antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA, and for the same reasons – misuse and overuse of antibiotics.

To mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day on November 18, public health workers and officials in England are calling on everyone to send a message to the world that we are serious about tackling antibiotic resistance by pledging to become an Antibiotic Guardian. Pledges include promising to avoid taking antibiotics for minor problems when they are not necessary and to safely dispose of unused drugs. Pet owners are asked to commit to reducing the need for veterinary antibiotics by keeping pets healthy, not asking for antibiotics, and only using antibiotics as instructed by their vet.

The Bella Moss Foundation (BMF) is the only public-facing charity that works with vets and pet owners dealing with antibiotic resistance in animals. The charity was started seven years ago after its founder’s beloved dog died from an MRSA infection, and since then the BMF has helped and supported thousands of vets and owners around the world. The BMF recently hosted a joint meeting with the Royal Society of Medicine that brought together over 150 experts in healthcare, microbiology, epidemiology and social science. This showed that animals and humans share many of the same drugs and bacteria, and that antibiotic-resistance affects us all. The meeting concluded that a One-Health approach to the problem is needed. This can only be achieved through integrating education and policies in infection control and responsible antibiotic use among policy makers, clinicians and members of the public in medical and veterinary healthcare.

Public Health England wants to see 10,000 people become Antibiotic Guardians and BMF is calling on pet owners and animal carers to do their bit to hit that target. BMF founder Jill Moss said: “We all know antibiotics are vital in helping humans and animals fight off serious bacterial infections, but if we are not careful we risk losing them forever through mis-use. “While we don’t know for sure how many antibiotics are given to pets we do know more doctors are prescribing them for people , and that more super-resistant types of bacteria are starting to emerge around the world. These potentially fatal infections can travel from humans to pets and back again, and we could all be at risk unless we make a concerted effort to use these precious drugs responsibly – both in people and in the pets we love.”

She added: “It is not hard to become an Antibiotic Guardian – people, pet owners and medical and veterinary professionals can do it online with a few mouse clicks – but by making these pledges we will set a good example and show the world that the UK understands how important antibiotics are and that we promise to use them properly.”

Dr Diane Ashiru-Oredope, Pharmacist Lead at PHE and lead for the Antibiotic Guardian campaign, said:

“We are very pleased to be working with the Bella Moss Foundation, to promote awareness of the Antibiotic Guardian campaign where everyone is encouraged to make a pledge to help save our antibiotics and keep them working.

Jill Moss said “People may not realise this but antibiotic resistant bacteria can pass between humans and animals and vice versa so it is important that people are aware of how transmission of these bugs can occur and how to minimise that by practicing careful hand hygiene at all times.

“Just like people, pets sometimes are unwell and need antibiotics to get better. It is important that the antibiotics are taken as prescribed and at the right intervals to keep the right concentration of the antibiotic in the bloodstream to kill the infection. So even if your pet isn’t keen on the idea of taking his tablets we urge pet owners to ensure that they do.

If you want to make a pledge visit www.antibioticguardian.com or follow the stories of others making their pledges via Twitter by searching for #AntibioticGuardian.

To find out more about how BMF helps educate pet owners, vets and the general public about superbugs in pets visit www.thebellamossfoundation.com and to visit our recent one health conference see www.onehealthbmf.com

Notes to editors

Contacts

BMF founder Jill Moss on 07860 879079, BMF media manager Emma Cooper on 07787 512427 or clinical advisor Dr Tim Nuttall on 07914 149609 (tim.nuttall@ed.ac.uk).

The Public Health England press office can be reached on 0208 327 7080 or email louise.brown@phe.gov.uk

Figures courtesy of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association: www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2014

According to new findings revealed by Public Health England in its 2014 antibiotics surveillance report:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/english-surveillance-programme-antimicrobial-utilisation-and-resistance-espaur-report

Coverage of recent one health conference held jointly by Bella Moss and Royal Society of Medicine comments in October 2014 Veterianry Record http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/175/15/360.full.

Social Media ECDC antibiotics Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/EAAD.EU

References

1. Westgarth C, Pinchbeck GL, Bradshaw JWS, Dawson S, Gaskell RM, Christley RM (2008) Dog-human and dog-dog interactions of 260 dog-owning households in a community in Cheshire. Veter-inary Record 162 436-442.

2. Nuttall, TJ, Williams, NJ, Saunders, R, Dawson, S (2009) Meticillin-resistant Staphylococci in com-panion animals. European Journal of Companion Animal Practice 18 280-287.

3. Maddox TW, Williams NJ, Clegg PD, O’Donnell AJ, Dawson S, Pinchbeck GL (2011). Longitudinal study of antimicrobial-resistant commensal Escherichia coli in the faeces of horses in an equine hospital. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 100 134-145.

4. Beco L, Guaguère E, Lorente Mendez C, Noli C, Nuttall TJ, Vroom M (2013) Suggested guidelines for using systemic antimicrobials in bacterial skin infections: part two – antimicrobial choice, treat-ment regimens and compliance. Veterinary Record 172 156-160.

5. Beco L, Guaguère E, Lorente Mendez C, Noli C, Nuttall TJ, Vroom M (2013) Suggested guidelines for using systemic antimicrobials in bacterial skin infections: part one – diagnosis based on clinical presentation, cytology and culture. Veterinary Record 172 72-78.

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