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Antibiotics: Your own health at risk

Many people believe that intensive animal production cannot go without the use of antibiotics. To a certain level they may be right, since various producers consider its use as harmless and profitable. Sometimes the use is part of the standard feed, while there is no immediate bird health issue involved. Preventive antibiotic use is then the excuse.

For a long time this was accepted, but the situation changed when the first rumours about bacterial resistance made headlines in the public news media. Many producers, though, ignore the worries expressed by public health officers and consumer representatives. They probably believed that it was all hype and would fade away over time. Reality, however, is different. Antibiotic resistance is real and it caused serious public health issues. It affects consumers as well as producers.

The most serious problem is the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This is a bacterium responsible for several infections that are difficult to treat in humans. It has adapted to survive treatment with beta-lactam antibiotics, which is especially troublesome in hospital-associated infections. Although the issue regarding resistance was originally not seen as being related to animal production, it now definitely is. In case of hospitalisation, livestock producers are registered as such and may be taken into isolation. They are seen to be a special threat and possible carriers of multi-resistant bacteria. In case of an infection with such a bacterium the patient will suffer from problems that are difficult to treat, if a treatment is even available.

With this knowledge, livestock producers need to understand that using antibiotics is not without risk for the health of himself, his family, as well as his staff. It is his responsibility to determine whether antibiotics are being used and to what level. He also remains responsible for the quality and safety of the food products he delivers to the market, as well as for the image of these products. It is easy to loose a good image, but extremely difficult and expensive to gain a good image back. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the risk of antibiotic use in meat and egg production and may decide to not buy products that are believe to be risky.

Although most of the time MRSA is linked to pig production, it is also related to the veal and poultry industry. The industry, therefore, cannot shrug its shoulders and move on if nothing was wrong. In this case it would be wise to redefine the term prudent use of antibiotics. Time is up for those who use antibiotics to cover up bad management, poor housing conditions or insufficient health care. The standard rule should be: Do not use antibiotics unless there is a serious health issue and no other remedy applies. Veterinary practitioners, who usually authorise producers to use antibiotics, should also take responsibility and prevent unnecessary antibiotic use and the development of antibiotic resistance in animals and humans.

9 comments

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    Cecille C. Lazaro

    Prudent use of antibiotics has long been implemented in the Poultry Business of the company. Just recently it is a company-wide objective to control its use for "greener chicken" and also the environment. In a country with difficult growing conditions for poultry, the quick modernization to climate controlled housing systems and improved growing practices has hand in hand reduced antibiotic use.

    Greetings from Philippines. Glad to see you continuously involved in World Poultry.

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    Dr. Amenya Hesbon Z

    I do concur. Antimicrobial resistance has emerged from uninformed and imprudent, or careless usage, of especially, antibiotics, not so much in veterinary or medical practice but in intensive animal production systems where offtake is high and fast, cover up managemental shortfalls.
    Resistance develops quickly and almost effortlessly. On the contrary, consider the resources that go to drug design and development, and it is true that no novel antibiotic molecule has been developed in the recent past. I guess it is upon the veterinary faculty and the policy makers to comprehensively capacity build the stakeholders to ensure prudent usage of antibiotics in animal production.

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    Pammy Riggs

    It has long been suspected that irresponsible antibiotic use would eventually throw up a range of problems and this has now come to pass. Poor management is not an excuse for misuse of antibiotics but there is an underlying factor that is never discussed. The NUMBER of poultry kept in one location has gradually increased over the years. It is time to start to decrease numbers and with it density of stock. Fresh air between birds will do alot to promote health. Time to think long-term.

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    FRANCISCO FIGUEREDO

    bom dia,

    com certeza, se faz necessário o acompanhamento rigoroso, da aplicação destes antibioticos, e seus residuos em ovos e carnes de aves e suinos e bovinos, quando serão ingeridos por humanos. a carga de produtos quimicos que os humanos estao absorvendo é enorme, e precisa ser mais rigorisamente controlada, pela entidades publicas setorias, e estas mesmas entidades, devem ser acompanhadas, proximamente, sobre as soluções técnbicas que oferecem a sociedade. pois o que esta em jogo, é a saude, é o DNA, humano. aliás, muito maltratado já.

    (Google translation) certainly, it is necessary to follow closely the application of these antibiotics and their residues in eggs and poultry and pigs and cattle, when they will be eaten by humans. the load of chemicals that humans are absorbing is huge and needs to be more Strict WOC controlled by the public sectors, and these same entities, must be accompanied closely on solutions that offer técnbicas society. because what is at stake is the health, is the DNA, human. moreover, already severely mistreated.

    agradeço, a oportunidade de expor esse parecer, leigo, sim, mas cauteloso, sobre os rumos que estao tomando as soluções aplicadas contra doenças e pragas.

    obrigado,

    eng. francisco figueredo

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    Paulo Martins

    Dear Sirs,
    I do agree 100% with your comments that antibiotic resistance is real and it caused serious public health issues.
    I do agree 100% with your comments related the necessity of the prudent utilization of antimicrobians on animal production. This is a basic principle that must be followed by any technician working in the food chain.
    I do agree 100% with your comments about the necessity to improve the management, facilities & environment control and biosecurity measures on animal husbandry.
    I do not agree at all with generic comments suggesting that the animal production is the principal responsible for the antimicrobians resistance on human being.
    In the big majority of the countries human medicines are bought without medical prescriptions; there is no control about its correct and complete utilization even in sophisticated hospitals; there is no control at all with the visitors in the majority of hospitals, even in developed countries; the transit of people, hands and footwear hygiene control is neglected in all hospitals all over the world. Nobody take showers before entering a hospital or surgery rooms. The protocols for disinfection and its application on the hospital facilities are nothing compared with a decent hatchery or processing plant. The people of the health system move from a room to another or from a hospital to another without further care on their own hygiene.
    A simple example about the complexity of the subject is that many infectious agents – like plasmodium (malaria) and mycobacterium (tuberculosis) – developed high level of resistance to many antimicrobians that are not utilized in veterinary medicine. How to explain?
    So before any accusation or statement it is very important to understand a little more about the complexity of the theme.
    Paulo Martins, DVM, Brazil

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    David Burch

    Good to see you back in action Wiebe.
    MRSA is a hot topic in the EU and in particular in the Netherlands as it causes resistance to all penicillins and cephalosporins. I believe it is associated with a certain type of antibiotic which has been widely used in cetain key areas and we must not blame all antibiotic use. The concern is that these 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins are critical for human medical use and hence the sensitivity of the topic. There are discussions going on in Europe now concerning the limitation of the use of these products. In the UK, we did not find MRSA in our pig herd in a recent study and I urge readers to follow the responsible use of antimicrobial products. The British Veterinary Association have produced a poster regarding this and is downloadable from www.bva.co.uk

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    Cecille C. Lazaro

    Prudent use of antibiotics has long been implemented in the Poultry Business of the company. Just recently it is a company-wide objective to control its use for "greener chicken" and also the environment. In a country with difficult growing conditions for poultry, the quick modernization to climate controlled housing systems and improved growing practices has hand in hand reduced antibiotic use.

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    Francesca Infante

    Antibiotics? Have we got a choice to use or not to use an antibiotic in commercial animal production?
    The decision to go zero antibiotic some 10-12 years ago, at our side of the globe, was limited. But the high risk of antibiotic residues in the animal food products, gave us the adventure to try any available resources (nutracueticals) that can increase the immunity in poultry or swine, without the guilt of using antibiotic.
    Indeed, we were quite successful with the use of some nutritionals (with enzymes and acidifiers). But somehow, sudden environmental changes can shift the animal condition to one with disease challenge.
    Anyhow, thanks to the men and women who have unceasingly search for the proper use of the herbs & spices, prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, etc., we now have loads to choose from these days. It's when knowing when to timely integrate these products in one's management program that you can possibly do away with antibiotic, that is, zero antibiotic.

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    Dr M asif raza

    Use of excessive antibiotics should be discouraged, but it is not possible to avoid their usage completely, medicines used as a prevention for coccidiosis,growth promoters are frequently used in feeds.In my country where poultry population is increasing with out any rules and regulations disease problems are coming very frequently. Recently we are facing out break of new castle disease throughout the country the prevelance of secondary infections like Ecoli,MG are frequent in flocks ,so in these conditions it is not possible to avoide the usage of antibiotics.

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