Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria are no longer killed by an antibiotic. These bacteria have now become resistant to antibiotics.
Often when a bacterium develops resistance against a particular antibiotic, another antibiotic can be found that will still work. However, some “superbugs” are now emerging that have developed resistance against multiple antibiotics, even, in some cases, all antibiotics.
This situation is extremely worrying
Over the decades since antibiotics first became available agriculture has become heavily reliant on antibiotics in order to treat sick animals. If these antibiotics become effectively obsolete due to resistance then both animal welfare and the profitability of livestock farming will be significantly hit.
Even more concerning is the impact antibiotic resistance could have on human health – experts predict that by 2050, less than 30 years away, we can expect 10 million human deaths annually from drug-resistant bacterial infections.
Comparison with the current covid 19 pandemic, which is reported to have been responsible to date (26/10/20) for 1.2 million deaths worldwide, will put this statistic in context.
The increase in AMR
Has been driven by the overuse of antibiotics and by the improper use of antibiotics. In a 1945 interview with The New York Times, Alexander Fleming, who won a Nobel Prize that year for his discovery of penicillin, warned that misuse of the drug could result in selection for resistant bacteria. True to his prediction, resistance began to emerge within 10 years of the wide scale introduction of penicillin.
It is important to remember that antibiotic resistant bacteria do not respect any boundaries between animals, humans and the environment. The rise of AMR due to the irresponsible use of antibiotics on farms will certainly lead to difficulties in treating animal diseases, but it also has the potential to cause humans to be infected with resistant bacteria. It is no exaggeration to say that irresponsible antibiotic use on farms is not only a threat to animal health, but also a threat to the lives of children with cystic fibrosis, cancer patients and people living with immunosuppressive diseases.
Faced with this issue, far too many farmers, vets and doctors have either buried their heads in the sand, or pointed their finger at others. Now is the time for everyone to accept responsibility for their own actions and work together to help tackle this issue!
During this AMR awareness week we want to challenge farmers to stop and think,
Could you reduce the use of antibiotics?
- Could the nutrition, husbandry and housing of your stock be improved in order to prevent diseases in the first place?
- What measures could you take to help prevent introducing diseases onto your farm from outside – how is your biosecurity?
- Do you use vaccinations where appropriate in order to prevent disease?
- Have you worked with your vet to produce a herd health plan?
- HOW RESPONSIBLE ARE YOU IN YOUR USE OF ANTIBIOTICS?
- When you see a sick animal do you discuss with your vet about whether antibiotic treatment is needed?
- Do you always ensure you are using an appropriate antibiotic and make sure you are administering it at the correct dose?
For more information on Antimicrobial Resistance take a look at these great sources