Now is the time to address antibiotic resistance

Stock farmers will need to sacrifice their goal of 100% productivity coupled with traditional treatment methods if the rest of the world wants to use antibiotics in the next 40 years.

That was the warning from Professor Michael Apley, from Kansas University’s College of Veterinary Sciences, during the Ruminant Veterinary Association of South Africa’s (Ruvasa) annual congress at Misty Hills near Muldersdrift.

“The last time a new antibiotic group was identified was in 1979, which means the last time antibiotics were discovered was 40 years ago. We already have all the antibiotics that we are going to get, so we need to use it with great caution.

“It is the responsibility of the vet to ensure that the correct procedures are followed before antibiotics are prescribed,” he said.
Sensible usage of antibiotics relies on a few basic principles, irrespective of the species of animal being treated.

Stewardship for the use of the antibiotics means that the vet is responsible for the correct dosage. From there on, he needs to ask himself if there is not an alternative choice, besides antibiotics, to be made.”

If not, an antibiotic which is safe and effective for a specific case must be used.

Nothing new

According to Dr Michael Brink, chairperson of the South African Antibiotic Stewardship Programme (SAASP), antibiotic resistance is not a phenomenon which started after Dr Alexander Flemming’s discovery of penicillin.

“Monsters taken from a 30 000 year old permafrost has bacteria already resistant against some antibiotics. This is not a new issue, but one which existed a long time ago. This resistance spreads both directly and indirectly, between people and production animals.

“This does not only differ between various bacteria and resistance mechanisms, but also in different environments.”

“Genome sequencing will most likely shed light on the role of production animals in the spread of antibiotics resistance in people and vice versa, but this is research which still needs to be done,” said Brink.

Therefore, a uniform strategy needs to be developed and applied, which takes animals, people and the environment into consideration. This strategy is referred to as One Health.

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