Antibiotic Use in Livestock Evaluated

Written by: Dr. Simon M. Shane

Nov 11
Antibiotic Use in Livestock Evaluated Dr. Simon M. Shane

Dr. Mike Appley of Kansas State University is conducting trials on calves and piglets to determine whether therapeutic administration of antibiotics is effective and whether drug-resistant strains can be demonstrated in these farm animals. He stated “I’m ready to stop advising meat producers to use any antibiotic if convinced that it could harm people.” Appley added “the scientific evidence so far does not persuade us that we are doing anything risky.” In an interview on National Public Radio he recognized conflicts by commenting that “Veterinarians serve two masters, public health and food production”.

There is considerable evidence, based on the application of sophisticated gene sequencing technology that isolates of some pathogens from livestock have commonality with hospital-acquired infections, although as yet there has been no 'smoking gun' identified. 

Irrespective of the scientific merits of whether antibiotic use in livestock may lead directly to the emergence of drug resistance strains of Staphyloccus spp., E.coli, Salmonella enterica, and Enterococcus spp. in patients, there is growing public concern regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock production. This is reflected in increase pressure on regulators by politicians in the form of recent bills introduced into Congress and by proposed FDA initiatives.

Many of the bacteria treated with antibiotics are effectively not primary pathogens but opportunists responsible for secondary infection. Defects in management, environmental control including ventilation, overstocking and climatic extremes predispose to both susceptibility and a diminished response to infection. Over the long term, factors which degrade the immune response leading to morbidity may be more amenable to changes in underlying causes rather than resorting to administration of antibiotics as a short-term solution.

Accepting the use of CAPES (Consumer Acceptable Production Enhances) in place of antibiotics would benefit the image of the livestock industry and would enhance consumer confidence and silent critics of intensive production. In approaching any multi-factorial problem of which disease is a component, contributory factors should always be evaluated and resolved before resorting to repeated administration of antibiotics to flocks and herds. 

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