A project designed to help combat antimicrobial resistance in animals and the environment in Wales has been launched in Wales.

Arwain DGC (Defnydd Gwrthfaicrobaidd Cyfrifol) Cymru is at the forefront of the drive to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR is classed as a global ‘One Health” challenge and there are calls for urgent multisectoral action.

AMR has been described by The World Health Organisation as an issue where “without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

Arwain DGC comprises a schedule of activities and brings together experienced collaborators to deliver a wide-ranging programme addressing AMR in animals and the environment.

Included are key Welsh agricultural stakeholders (Menter a Busnes, Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers Ltd and Welsh Agricultural Organisation Society), academic institutions (University of Bristol and Aberystwyth University School of Veterinary Science) and veterinary delivery partners (Iechyd Da and Milfeddygon Gogledd Cymru).

The overall Arwain DGC project is led by Menter a Busnes (MaB), with each partner responsible for specialist elements of its delivery.

Don Thomas of Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers Ltd (WLBP) said the organisation was eager to play its part in this important project.

WLBP will participate by “further developing digital tools to collect, store, manage and analyse key data on antibiotic usage (and in particular for the critically important antibiotics) from our 7,000+ livestock farmer members in Wales."

Welcoming Arwain DGC’s launch, Robert Smith of Iechyd Da said: "Iechyd Da's projects within the scheme include the development of a biosecurity app for vets and collecting syndromic surveillance data from member practices in Wales in collaboration with the Welsh Veterinary Science Centre.

"Member practices will also actively participate in the further development of the veterinary prescribing champions network and assist with the collection of on-farm samples to understand the relationship between AMR and antimicrobial use on Welsh farms."

Dr Gwen Rees, of Aberystwyth School of Veterinary Science and winner of last year’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s Impact Award for her leadership of AVC’s veterinary prescribing champions network, will further develop this work, creating national prescribing guidelines for cattle and sheep, developing a voluntary code of conduct for antimicrobial prescribing and understanding patterns of antimicrobial in the equine industry.

She said: “We’ve made huge progress already in improving antibiotic prescribing among farm animals in Wales, and it’s exciting to take this to the next level.”

Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths said: “This will place Wales at the forefront of the task of addressing the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

"This project includes a number of interventions being piloted here in Wales, many for the first time. The control of infectious diseases, and the responsible use of antibiotics used to treat them, are in the hands of animal keepers and their veterinarians and we need a collective effort to make lasting changes to keep our animals healthy.

"This will reduce the need to use antibiotics, and ensure they are used appropriately when absolutely necessary."

Closely aligned to the Welsh Government’s five-year AMR in Animals and the Environment Implementation Plan (2019-2024), the project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Arwain DGC builds on the pioneering work of an earlier project – Arwain Vet Cymru (AVC) – which focused on improving antibiotic prescribing in cattle and sheep through a Wales-wide network of veterinary prescribing champions. AVC’s work has subsequently become the blueprint for similar schemes across the UK and globally.