On Feb. 4, 1735, Benjamin Franklin published the oft-quoted idiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Although originally intended to inspire care for fire prevention, the quote still stands firm in its advice for today’s issue with antimicrobial resistance.
Microbes include bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Patients with bacterial and infectious diseases have been successfully treated with antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, for over 70 years.
However, over the past decade, microbes have begun to fight back prompting changes in FDA regulations and global antibiotic symposiums, funded in part by Beef Checkoff dollars.
Beef Quality Assurance Vice-Chair, Bob Smith, DVM, who provides service to feedlot clients in nine states, was keynote speaker in a webinar hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture in conjunction with the Beef Checkoff program, exploring all aspects of antimicrobial resistance.
Sarah Bohnenkamp, contractor for Beef Checkoff Program and spokesperson for the webinar, said this topic has been earmarked as top priority, globally, with the beef industry.
“Some say, we as a culture in the USA, are addicted to antibiotics,” Bohnenkamp reported, adding that the beef industry is aggressively investing in promoting safety programs concentrating on reducing pre-harvest safety threats and targeting better stewardship of antibiotic use.
“Now, more than ever, producers play a central role!” Bohnenkamp remarked. “The spotlight is shining on the work you’re doing!”
Bohnenkamp said while increased resistance is spreading globally, with no new antibiotics on the horizon; the beef industry is working with the government to promote judicious use of antibiotics.
Dr. Smith said the newest class of antibiotic on the market was produced in 1978 and explained that antimicrobial resistance is increasing through genetic changes, misuse, over use and mismanagement, and how bacteria manage to survive.
Smith attested that this is not just an issue for cattle, but strikes every person and animal around the world.
“Even our pets are facing challenges.”
With resistance in every country around the world showing up in common infections, such as urinary tract infections, complying with FDA guidelines is absolutely essential.
Results of studies in 2009 showed that 5 percent of bacteria tested were resistant to antibiotics. Smith reported there was a big increase according to testing in 2011.
“Bacteria are survivors!” Smith emphasized.
Bacteria become resistant through mutations and modifications in their cell walls enabling them to repel, neutralize, and even pump antibiotics out of their cells. It has been shown that bacteria can even share their new immunity to other bacteria, sharing their resistance.
Smith outlined the few categories of antibiotics allowed to be used in treating cattle and made recommendations in both prevention of disease and judicious use of antibiotics when absolutely necessary, reducing risk in animals, while insuring animal health.
When using an antibiotic, accuracy is monumental.
This includes accuracy in identifying the bacteria and determining which class of antibiotic to use — as different classes target different bacteria, accuracy in determining the animal’s weight before dosing, accuracy in administration of the antibiotic in the correct amount — no more, no less at the proper intervals, and accuracy in finishing the dose for the time period prescribed by your veterinarian. Different drugs have different lengths of dosing. It is also important to be accurate when using injections. Make sure the full dose is injected fully in the site using the method prescribed.
When retreating the infection, if it does not diminish as you expect, it is best to have a post treatment interval and wait a little longer. Remember that antibiotics stay in the system for a few days after the dosing has ended. Don’t be too quick to retreat.
“Give the drug time to work,” Smith advises.
Smith also recommends knowing when to quit.
Reports of an increase in death loss in feeder cattle at feedlots may be related to an increase in antimicrobial resistance.
A renewed interest in “old fashioned animal husbandry practices” has cropped up.
Prevention beginning in-utero with proper nutrition and prepartum vaccinations will boost immunity in calves and other livestock.
Stress related unthriftiness in calves resulting in sickness, can be avoided through expanded bunk space and less crowded conditions. Smith noted bull calves in feeder lots showed more stress-related illness than steers, resulting in the conclusion that an extra amount of stress is related to hormones.
Using old-fashioned observation to head off stress and illness producing situations will dramatically reduce to the need for antibiotics. Tag calves and track their time at the feed bunk and water tank, especially calves that look suspicious.
Technology is available that can be used to track calves and record their time eating and drinking. Utilize new technology when possible.
“Less use of antibiotics will result in less resistance,” confirmed Smith.
Figures confirming overuse of antibiotics in the general public are alarming and collaboration between doctors, veterinarians, scientists, government officials, producers and retailers, to name a few, are working together to address this issue of priority around the globe.
“The CDC is a big player in coordinating efforts for antibiotic stewardship in humans,” Bohnenkamp said.
This effort joins together human, animals and environmental health for food safety and antibiotic resistance.
Bohnenkamp emphasizes the use of “ABL; Always be learning” and “ABC; Always be connecting with other people to share information.”
Telling the story will spread the word.
“The goal at the end of the day is judicious use,” Bohnenkamp confirmed, adding there is an intense focus on stewardship in all farm animals, regardless of if it is poultry, pigs, cows or whatever you may raise for food.
BQA standards are used by all veterinarians and consultants. Go to www.bqa.org for resources.
The Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), an updated rule instructing pharmaceutical companies, veterinarians, and producers on administration of necessary drugs through animal’s feed and water, is now effective. This rule phases out use of antibiotics for growth promotion and increased feed conversion in cattle. Violating a VFD is a Federal offense.
Producers are encouraged to read the 2016 Antibiotic Symposium White Paper “to gain a national perspective of how stakeholders are working together for better solutions for animal agriculture and human health.” A complete list of affected applications is posted at www.fda.gov.