Think twice be­fore mis­us­ing an­tibi­otics

Vet ex­plains the dos and don’ts when us­ing an­tibi­otics in an­i­mals

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - SEEDS OF GOLD -

To­day I will en­gage live­stock farm­ers on the im­por­tant topic of an­i­mal pro­tec­tion and hu­man health.

In par­tic­u­lar, this is all about an­tibi­otic use and the grave dan­ger that in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of life-saving chem­i­cals poses to hu­man be­ings and an­i­mals.

An­tibi­otics are chem­i­cals that are used to treat dis­eases by killing harm­ful bac­te­ria in the bod­ies of hu­mans and an­i­mals. The chem­i­cals com­prise the widest range of drugs used in treat­ing hu­man and an­i­mal dis­eases. Sci­en­tif­i­cally, an­tibi­otics are drugs de­rived from living or­gan­isms while an­timi­cro­bials are syn­thetic forms of an­tibi­otics.

For the pur­poses of our dis­cus­sion to­day, I shall use the term an­tibi­otics to re­fer to all drugs used in the treat­ment of dis­eases caused by bac­te­ria in peo­ple and an­i­mals.

Be­fore I move on, next week from 13 to 19 is the World An­tibi­otic Aware­ness Week.

The global com­mu­nity, led by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), will use the pe­riod to raise aware­ness on proper use of the drugs.

In Kenya, ac­tiv­i­ties will be led by the Min­istry of Health, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Live­stock and Fish­eries and WHO, among oth­ers.

Now, I will share three en­coun­ters that have put me at log­ger­heads with farm­ers on the use of an­tibi­otics.

In the first, Ki­mani’s fin­isher pigs got an at­tack of swine pox, a usu­ally mild vi­ral dis­ease that may heal with­out treat­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, the pox wounds got bac­te­rial in­fec­tion due to flies feed­ing on them and there were only two op­tions.

I ei­ther had to in­ject the pigs with tetra­cy­cline an­tibi­otic or leave them to heal on their own for up to three weeks. If I used tetra­cy­cline, then Ki­mani would have had to with­draw the pigs from slaugh­ter for 15 days.

Some of the pigs were ready for slaugh­ter and Ki­mani did not wish to keep them longer and in­cur feed­ing costs. If I had left the pigs to heal on their own, they would have lost weight and take longer for Ki­mani to sell, hence re­duc­ing pro­jected profit.

I set­tled on tetra­cy­cline use but Ki­mani was thor­oughly un­happy with me. He said I should just have left him to de­cide what to do with his pigs.

Next is Pu­rity. She had to dis­card 20 litres of milk per day for seven days be­cause I treated her cow for mas­ti­tis with the an­tibi­otic cephalexin. You see, the milk had to be with­held from hu­man con­sump­tion for three days of treat­ment and an­other four days from the time treat­ment was com­pleted to en­sure that the an­tibi­otics in the milk were be­low the min­i­mum level al­lowed. Pu­rity was not amused with me at all. She in­sisted the first three days with­drawal was suf­fi­cient.

Fi­nally, in Ema’s case where I treated her 1,500 lay­ers with tetra­cy­cline and she had to dis­card eggs for three days to avoid feed­ing peo­ple with the drug. I did not like the way she looked at me as she grudg­ingly agreed to with­hold the eggs.

I em­pathised with the farm­ers but there is over­whelm­ing sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that fail­ure to ob­serve proper an­tibi­otic use re­sults in bac­te­ria de­vel­op­ing re­sis­tance. In ad­di­tion, in­ges­tion of small quan­ti­ties of some an­tibi­otics causes de­vel­op­ment of al­ler­gies in peo­ple. The best way of en­sur­ing hu­mans are not ex­posed to di­etary in­take of an­tibi­otics is to avoid con­tam­i­na­tion of foods of an­i­mal ori­gin with an­tibi­otics used in the treat­ment of dis­eases.

Bac­te­ria de­velop re­sis­tance when they are sub­jected to low lev­els of an­tibi­otics called sub-lethal doses. This is ei­ther through di­etary in­take of an­tibi­otics, un­der-dos­ing of an­tibi­otics dur­ing treat­ment or fre­quent use of the same an­tibi­otics. Re­sis­tance ren­ders an­tibi­otics in­ef­fec­tive and peo­ple and an­i­mals get killed by oth­er­wise treat­able dis­eases.

When we use an­tibi­otics in an­i­mals and con­sume their meat, milk and eggs be­fore the des­ig­nated with­drawal pe­riod elapses, we ex­pose the bac­te­ria in hu­mans to sub-lethal doses of the an­tibi­otics and there­fore en­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance. Again, fre­quent un­nec­es­sary use of an­tibi­otics and un­der­dos­ing of the drugs in an­i­mals en­cour­ages the de­vel­op­ment of bac­te­rial re­sis­tance to an­tibi­otics.

Most dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria found in an­i­mals are also found in hu­mans due to the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween do­mes­tic an­i­mals and man. Thus de­vel­op­ment of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance in one species of live­stock is a real and present dan­ger to hu­man be­ings be­cause the re­sis­tant bac­te­ria may eas­ily cross to peo­ple. The re­verse is also true be­cause hu­man dis­ease-caus­ing bac­te­ria eas­ily jump to an­i­mals. An­tibi­otics used in hu­mans are there­fore also used in treat­ing an­i­mals.

For ex­am­ple, cephalexin is used to treat mas­ti­tis in cat­tle caused by the bac­te­ria E. coli, Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus and Strep­to­coc­cus. These three bac­te­ria are also found abun­dantly on the hu­man skin and di­ges­tive sys­tem where they cause var­i­ous dis­eases. Cephalexin is used in treat­ing such dis­eases.

Peo­ple who should be di­rectly in­volved in pre­vent­ing de­vel­op­ment of bac­te­rial an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance are live­stock farm­ers, an­i­mal health ser­vice providers, han­dlers of food of an­i­mal ori­gin, med­i­cal ser­vices providers and any user of an­tibi­otics. In short, all of us have roles to play in en­sur­ing that an­tibi­otics con­tinue be­ing use­ful in dis­ease treat­ment for a long time be­cause new an­tibi­otics take a long time and huge re­sources to de­velop.

Farm­ers must en­sure that they ob­serve with­drawal pe­ri­ods of drugs, use an­tibi­otics only as di­rected by cer­ti­fied an­i­mal health ser­vice providers, vac­ci­nate their an­i­mals against dis­eases and keep high lev­els of hy­giene to pre­vent dis­eases.

An­i­mal health ser­vice providers must cre­ate ad­e­quate aware­ness to farm­ers on an­tibi­otic use and hy­giene, prac­tice ju­di­cious use of an­tibi­otics and en­sure they are not used for growth pro­mo­tion in live­stock. Han­dlers of meat, eggs and milk must prac­tice ut­most hy­giene, food stor­age and avoid us­ing an­tibi­otics as food preser­va­tives.

Med­i­cal ser­vices providers should only use an­tibi­otics where nec­es­sary and test dis­ease or­gan­isms for an­tibi­otic sen­si­tiv­ity be­fore us­ing the drugs. They must cre­ate ut­most aware­ness on proper an­tibi­otic use to their pa­tients. An­tibi­otic users must only use the drugs as di­rected by cer­ti­fied health ser­vices providers and avoid self-med­i­ca­tion.

In a nut­shell, let us use more hy­giene, more vac­ci­na­tion and biose­cu­rity (in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion) in our live­stock pro­duc­tion to safe­guard use our an­tibi­otics.

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