Nov. 24, 2021

Optimal use of antibiotics in animals? There’s an app for that

UCalgary-led team develops veterinary smartphone app to help tackle antimicrobial resistance

Calgary, AB – University of Calgary researchers have collaborated with other key scientists to develop a new tool to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animals. AMR is one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity, according to the World Health Organization. The misuse and overuse of antimicrobials are two key reasons for the increase in bacteria that no longer respond to medicines.

The app has been developed though a collaboration between the University of Calgary, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and Stewardship of Antimicrobials by Veterinarians Initiative working with Firstline – Clinical Decisions.

This app gives veterinarians guidelines for prescribing antibiotics for species-specific conditions. This is a novel tool which we hope will help promote the optimal use of antibiotics with the aim of reducing antimicrobial resistance.

Dr. John Conly, MD, infectious disease specialist at the Cumming School of Medicine

The idea came from a similar novel app, which Conly had helped develop for human health at the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services.

“We saw Dr. Conly’s app as an excellent opportunity to make that happen for animal health,” says Dr. Herman Barkema, DVM, PhD, professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and scientific director of the Alberta-wide AMR - One Health Consortium, who worked on the project.

Useful treatment info for multiple species in the palm of your hand 

The newly launched Firstline – Clinical Decisions app offers point-of-care treatment recommendations and other reference material for a wide range of animal health conditions in a wide range of species. It’s an ideal tool for rural mixed-practice veterinarians who treat companion animals like cats and dogs, as well as cattle, pigs, poultry, horses, and other species. The app is available to veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and veterinary students across Canada who are CVMA members. Users who aren’t registered with the CVMA can email Firstline– Clinical Decisions to receive a courtesy download.

“We thought, okay, we don't want just another app, we want it to be really useful and we want it to be used. So, the team at UCalgary connected with the people at the CVMA and their Working Groups on antimicrobials because for human health, it's only one species whereas, in veterinary medicine, we have all these species with different conditions that we want to tackle.”

Dr. Herman Barkema, DVM, PhD, professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

The goal was to successfully create a true algorithmic digital app to facilitate optimal veterinary prescribing of antibiotics from the palm of your hand.

 “To our knowledge, this is one of the first digital apps to facilitate antimicrobial prescribing for veterinarians, and the U of C research team has been at the forefront,” added Conly.

Helping reduce antimicrobial resistance one sick animal at time

Barkema says while veterinarians won’t pull up the app for every case of an infectious disease, particularly the more common ones, “not only will some of the considerations be new to them, but it will also be a tool that they can use in discussion with farmers.”

Conly calls it a true One Health app, because ensuring veterinarians choose the most appropriate antibiotic for the disease they’re tackling will help reduce drug resistance that might impact the health of animals, people, and the environment.

“One of the main measures of success will be if this initiative takes off globally,” says Conly. “Such a platform can be a used as a steppingstone for multiple jurisdictions around the world – a platform for others to emulate globally that facilitates optimal prescribing for use of antimicrobials in animals that are critically important agents for humans.”

John Conly is a professor in the departments of Medicine, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases and member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the CSM. He is the medical director of the W21C Research and Innovation Centre.

Herman Barkema is a professor in the Department of Production Animal Health at UCVM and in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the CSM. He is also a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the CSM. He is the director of One Health at UCalgary and the AMR – One Health Consortium.

Media inquiries

Jacqueline Sinnett

Media Relations Advisor, Media and Issues Management

University of Calgary (Advancement)



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