Antibiotic resistance – Why the Fuss?

Antibiotic resistance  – Why the Fuss?
By Tennielle Ellingham, Veterinarian

Antibiotic resistance commonly called antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been known for many decades. So why now is this issue so topical? Recent reports from global experts have shown we are heading towards a post-antibiotic era, and that it is a crisis in human medicine.
“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organisation. This stark reality has led to the spot light being put on the use of antibiotics in animals because of the potential for resistant bacteria (or resistance genes) reaching humans via food, the environment or direct contact.

Use of antibiotics can potentially lead to resistance, as bacteria already resistant survive, or bacteria mutate to become resistant. What is not well known is how much risk the use of antibiotics in animals poses to humans. The risk of the level of resistance will vary between bacteria, for example how likely they are to develop resistance and how likely they may be to infect humans or pass on resistance genes, the drugs used (some veterinary drugs are not used in human medicine and vice/versa) and how likely it is that resistance is passed onto a human. However, potential development of AMR starts right on farm, each and every time an antibiotic is used.

An example is the farm worker who gives a penicillin tube to a chronic staph mastitis cow, and gets milk containing bacteria not killed by penicillin on his overalls. He then goes home, hugs his daughter and she picks up some of the resistant bacteria from his clothes, which colonises in her nose. The next day at day-care, she sneezes over her friends, and they too pick up some of the resistant bacteria. Meanwhile the dog had a good sniff, lick and roll on his boss’s overalls last night, so he too has been exposed. While this exposure in itself doesn’t make anyone sick, it does allow the resistant bacteria to spread the resistant genes into a non-resistant bacterial population.

Minimising the risk of developing AMR on farm in a practical and simple manner is a focus for Anexa FVC. As a vet business, we need to understand the risks to our farming clients with regards to the antibiotics used on farm. There is no hiding from this issue, but by being fully informed and focussing on the bigger picture, a lot can be done to minimise the development of AMR on farm.

To reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance on your farm focus on prevention of disease:
• Use herd testing data for selective treatments of dry cow therapy,
• Work with your Veterinarian at the RVM consults (previously known as PAR consults) to develop effective treatment plans
• Only use antibiotics where bacterial infections are present
• Make treatment decisions based on cultures and sensitivity

Date Added: Wednesday, 2nd December 2015