Antibiotics-Resistant Superbugs: Time for collective action
Transforming our food system to be more sustainable will thereby significantly improve the overall health of animals and humans
Post by DR. FAAZIL BASHIR RATHER on Thursday, November 24, 2022
HEALTHY ANIMALS FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE
Food animals such as cattle, poultry, sheep, goat, etc, are being extensively reared not only as a source of nutrition but also as a source of income. Demand of animal based protein for human consumption is rising at an unprecedented rate and it is expected to double during the first half of this century. Scientific evidences demonstrate that over/ inappropriate use and misuse of antibiotics in food animals and the subsequent contamination of the environment can contribute to the development and emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The rise and spread of AMR is creating a new generation of ‘superbugs’ that cannot be treated with existing medicines. Drug resistance makes illnesses difficult or impossible to treat and renders antibiotics and other antimicrobial medications counterproductive. This might cause people and livestock to die from simple infections in the future.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health concern that impacts all countries and all people, regardless of their wealth or status. Antibiotic use has always been associated with the development of resistance. Indeed, whenever an antibiotic is consumed, it eliminates susceptible bacterial cells, leaving behind or selecting those unusual strains that continue to grow in its presence through a Darwinian selection process. Today, however, several antibiotics and other antimicrobials sold on the market are losing their efficacy and are no longer equally effective against pathogens which they used to kill previously. The factors such as the rampant use of antibiotics in humans and livestock, over and under-dosing of antibiotics, use of antibiotics for viral infections, poor sanitation practices and poor waste management in medical and veterinary healthcare facilities, hospitals and livestock farms have created enabling environment for pathogens to change their forms much more quickly than expected and turning them into ‘superbugs’.
The health and well-being of animals, people and our planet are interdependent. Poor animal health and welfare affect food safety, our environment and climate Ensuring the health and well-being of animals raised for food is both an ethical obligation and a critical component of providing safe food products. The challenges with the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance are very complex and have multiple effects not only on animals, but on humans and the environment as well. Significant success in tackling AMR in food-producing animals can be achieved by responsible antimicrobial usage across all sectors of livestock production through collaboration between government, vets and livestock farmers. Strengthening regulatory frame-work and implementation of strict legislative guidelines, imposing a special antibiotic tax while using antibiotics in food producing animals, banning without prescription sales of antibiotics, developing/ strengthening robust surveillance system that accounts for use and/or consumption of antibiotics in the animal/food/livestock sector would go a long way, thereby incorporating One Health Programme in its true essence. There is a need of strengthening infection prevention and control, promotion of investments in research, development and innovations, conduct capacity building sessions of all stake-holders, organize effective IEC campaigns and public awareness.
Tackling AMR is a shared responsibility for all of us and this year ‘World Antibiotic Awareness Week’ is being celebrated with a theme of “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together”. Let’s all join hands together and follow one health approach to minimize the impact of the superbugs. Working together and collaborating across all fields including animal and human health, environmental and food sectors is vital to combat and reverse AMR. This will help save millions of lives, preserve life-saving ‘magic bullets’ that remain available for current and future generations by using them sustainably and effectively. Transforming our food system to be more sustainable will thereby significantly improve the overall health of animals and humans.
(Author is Veterinarian and Technical Officer (Poultry), Directorate of Animal Husbandry Kashmir. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)