Recent stories in some well-read media publications make it very difficult for consumers to weed out the difference between the truth about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) versus assumptions.
Media suggests that the livestock industry is not properly managing the antibiotic issue. Assumptions like this have led to action, such as the recent San Francisco law requiring grocery stores and meat producers to label the average time and quantity of drugs given to livestock.
Let’s talk about the truths of AMR, before assumptions.
Truth #1: There is no direct evidence that links antibiotic use in livestock to clinical failure of therapy in humans.
To ensure farmers follow withdrawal dates and our meat supply is safe and nutritious, the USDA monitors and tests the meat supply for antibiotic residues in the meat.
Truth #3: Withholding treatment to sick animals is inhumane.
Veterinarians take an oath to protect animal health and prevent and relieve animal suffering, conserve animal resources, promote public health, and advance medical knowledge. What does this have to do with antibiotics? When an animal is sick, treatment with antibiotics is the ethical thing to do to relieve the animal from suffering.
Data from a recent Pipestone Applied Research scientifically validated study indicate that the inability to use antibiotics in a judicious, responsible manner to treat sick animals can result in unacceptably high mortality levels. As a veterinarian and animal care-taker, it’s at my core to use every approved tool I can to save animal lives while being judiciously responsible for my family, community and environment.
Truth #4: Antibiotic Resistance has been happening in bacteria for millions of years, long before the discovery and development of antibiotics.
- Antibiotic resistant bacteria have been identified in the stomach contents of mummified humans.
- Antibiotic resistant bacteria have been identified in 4-million-year-old caves in which humans have never set foot.
- Samples of bacteria collected from pens of pigs indicate resistance to antibiotics that have never been used on the farm.
Truth #5: The environment is the real driver of resistance.
Often overlooked is the effect of environmental bacteria on the development and spread of resistance, specifically,
- Bacteria & molds have been in our environment for millions of years.
- In order to compete and to survive, they have developed metabolites which are the precursors to antibiotics.
- The genetic code for these metabolites are easily exchanged from one bacteria to another
- The widespread exchange of genetic material results in the development of bacteria that are resistant to the metabolite (antibiotic).
- Because of this phenomenon, bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics, even if they are never used in the population or on the farm.
Truth #6: More research is needed to understand AMR.
Antimicrobial Resistance is extremely complicated, and with research so new on this topic it is too easy for people to jump to conclusions. Pipestone takes AMR and our responsibility of antibiotic use very seriously, which is why we have dedicated time and resources to developing programs such as PART (Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker). PART provides Pipestone veterinarians and livestock producers the tools for Responsible Antibiotic Use with ability to track antibiotic use. Pipestone is also undergoing research trials in regard to AMR so we can better understand how we can combat antibiotic resistance.
We applaud others who are taking steps to better understand the truths of AMR, and ask others to join us before making assumptions.