How important is the StAR strategy for you and for the Office? How do you relate to it?
The national antibiotic resistance strategy, or StAR for short, is a very good example of the importance of cooperation between the various federal offices in tackling such issues. Reducing resistance to antibiotics is a huge challenge, and we will be successful only if the offices responsible for human medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture and the environment work together. As a former practising veterinarian myself, I realise just how important it is to use antibiotics responsibly. So I am particularly pleased that we now have a central database in veterinary medicine for registering all dispensing of antibiotics: the Information System on Antibiotics (IS-ABV).
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
We have all been personally affected by the dramatic events of the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone whose work over the past 28 years has involved epidemic control in animals, I have naturally followed this pandemic particularly closely. As a result of having to work from home temporarily, the working methods in our office have changed, although the day-to-day business has had to carry on as usual.
On numerous occasions, we have been able to support the FOPH during the pandemic with staff resources, for example with epidemiologists, lawyers and other professionals.
This has also involved a specialist component with the introduction of Sars-COV-2 as a key research topic at the FSVO's Institute of Virology and Immunology (IVI), since the Director of Virology is a renowned corona specialist.
To what extent might COVID-19 represent an opportunity in the fight against antibiotic resistance?
I think that there is not so much a direct positive impact, but rather that the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise the importance of infection prevention through good hygiene and vaccinations in the fight against diseases. So perhaps the 'opportunity' lies in the fact that the experience of the pandemic has made us even more aware of the need to pay special attention to antibiotics. They can work miracles in bacterial infections, but only if the bacteria are not resistant. That's why we have to fight against the development of resistance.