WASHINGTON – November marks the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which was established by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in collaboration with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA).

According to USDA, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections occur annually in nearly two million people in the US causing more than 23,000 deaths. NARMS enables related federal agencies to monitor trends in antimicrobial resistance among foodborne bacteria from humans, retail meats and animals. USDA, for example, monitors and analyzes changes in antibiotic resistance on farms and in processing plants.

Other objectives of NARMS are to:

  • Disseminate timely information on antimicrobial resistance to promote interventions that reduce resistance among foodborne bacteria;
  • Conduct research to better understand the emergence, persistence, and spread of antimicrobial resistance;
  • Assist the FDA in making decisions related to the approval of safe and effective antimicrobial drugs for animals;

In a blog post, Dr. Uday Dessai, USDA Senior Public Health Advisor, wrote that despite the agency’s long history of research, more work needs to be done to address knowledge gaps in understanding antimicrobial resistance.

“To achieve the greatest public health impact, USDA must continue to coordinate and leverage expertise across many areas,” Dessai wrote. “And to ensure that effectiveness of antibiotics is preserved for treating both people and animals and that it is extended to future generations, USDA, other federal agencies, industry, and academic partners are working together to better understand the role of animal production environments in the development and spread of AMR bacteria.”

The NARMS anniversary coincides with World Antibiotic Awareness Week established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers.

“The theme of the campaign, Antibiotics: Handle with Care, reflects the overarching message that antibiotics are a precious resource and should be preserved,” WHO said in a release. “They should be used to treat bacterial infections, only when prescribed by a certified human or animal health professional. Antibiotics should never be shared or saved for the future.”