Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Antimicrobial Use (AMU)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) evolve in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines (e.g. antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics) to treat infections by killing or slowing microbial growth. When microbes are exposed to antimicrobials, they adapt and become more resistant. This contributes to increased AMR in humans, animals, crops, and in the environment (e.g. water, soil) (2) through exposure to waste water, consumer products and animal manure. There are also many social and environmental factors that contribute to rising rates of AMR including poor hygiene, inadequate infection prevention and control (IPC) practices, lack of awareness and education about AMR and appropriate antimicrobial use (AMU), insufficient access to health services, overcrowded housing conditions and a lack of clean water.

Antimicrobials are natural or synthetic substances that can kill or block the growth of microorganisms.

Antibiotics are a type of antimicrobial used to treat infections caused by bacteria.

The global community is mobilizing through international initiatives to protect human and animal health, conserve antimicrobial medicines and develop innovative responses to mitigate the risk of AMR before the situation worsens. Nations around the world are working together to find ways to share their experience, learn from each other, partner on initiatives and pool resources.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan (GAP) on AMR was endorsed at the World Health Assembly by Member States and acknowledged by heads of state and government at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The global community is taking action under the leadership of the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Both the OIE and FAO have passed resolutions encouraging Member States to combat AMR and to promote prudent use of antimicrobials in animals and agriculture.

The Government of Canada is actively engaged in the fight on AMR and has developed a Federal Framework grounded in a One Health Approach, recognizing the connection between humans, animals and the environment. This Pan-Canadian Framework for Action aims to strengthen Canada’s ability to combat the risk of AMR in a coordinated, multisectoral and effective manner.(2)

Provinces and territories are undertaking multiple initiatives to combat AMR, including surveillance, public and health professional awareness raising and hospital-based programs to reduce antibiotic use, and immunization programs to prevent and control infections and the spread of infectious diseases. Likewise, stakeholder organizations such as the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada and other health sector non-governmental organizations have established plans and initiatives to support the appropriate use of antibiotics in human and animal health settings. The Framework serves as a starting point from which to build a broader, pan-Canadian approach.

It is important for CPC to address public concerns and demonstrate that swine farmers are working hard to produce a safe, high-quality product while using antimicrobials in a responsible way.

Pork producers are proud to raise hogs to give consumers a wholesome, nutritious and affordable product. Farmers care for their animals and they need to have access to veterinary pharmaceuticals that work to ensure the welfare of their animals. Farmers also care about their families and staff, they understand that responsible use of antimicrobials is key to mitigate the development of antimicrobial resistance.

Farmers are transitioning into a more controlled use of antibiotics. The CQA program established by the Canadian Pork Council in 1998 promotes the use of good husbandry and management practices, and not antimicrobial use, as a first line of action against diseases. Setting up good production systems that include among others, vaccination, proper disinfection techniques and barn design focus on animal health and welfare, is helping to reduce the use of antibiotics. Through the CQA program producers also follow best practices in antimicrobial use, working closely with veterinarians and keeping records on medication used.

In their commitment to a responsible use of antimicrobials, producers are supportive of Health Canada’s regulatory and policy changes to strengthen oversight of veterinary drugs. In 2018, the new Canadian Pork Excellence platform will be launched. This platform includes a revised food safety program that takes into account Health Canada’s 2017 regulatory and policy changes. In fact, the Drug Use Policy of the CQA program, which aligns with the changes, provides producers with the tools to ensure the proper use of antimicrobials on their animals, maintaining their effectiveness and ensuring a safe food supply.

Through the partnership of the provincial associations and Swine Innovation Pork, pork producers support research and the development of new technologies. Projects like “New tools to enable effective genomic selection for disease resilience” or “Bio-exclusion and bio-containment strategies to control epidemics resulting from airborne viral and bacterial transmission” are a couple of examples of how producers are investing their money on research to learn how to better care for their herd and decrease the use of antibiotics.

CPC is taking a leadership role by participating in several initiatives to address AMR/AMU:

  • Selected pork producers participate through questionnaires administered by the herd veterinarian in the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS).
  • National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council (NFAHWC) Working Group.
  • Canadian Animal Health Products Regulatory Advisory Committee (CAHPRAC).


  1. World Health Organization. Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance 2014. [Internet] Geneva: WHO; 2014. Available from:
  2. World Health Organization. Briefing Note: AMR: An Emerging Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Issue.[Internet] Geneva: WHO; 2014. Available from:
  3. Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance and Antimicrobial Use: A Pan-Canadian Framework for Action. [Internet] Public Health Agency of Canada, 2017.