Research helps farmers and vets reduce antibiotic overuse

GCU’s Safeguarding Health through Infection Prevention (SHIP) Research Group has led an important review which could lead to improvements in antimicrobial stewardship in livestock farmers and vets.

Antibiotic misuse in livestock farming is contributing to antimicrobial resistance and impacting on human health, according to lead authors PhD student Lucyna Gozdzielewska and Professor Lesley Price.

Antimicrobial stewardship is the systematic effort to educate and persuade prescribers and users of antibiotics to follow evidence-based guidance, in order to cut down on overuse and reduce antimicrobial resistance.

The recent research was conducted as part of the SHIP Research Group’s LAMS (Improving Livestock Antimicrobial Stewardship) project, funded by Health Protection Scotland, and showed that responsible antibiotics use in this sector is complicated and using fewer antibiotics is important but insufficient to control the problem.

Researcher Lucyna explained the importance of her research: “The problem of antimicrobial resistance is a threat to us all. In the future we may not be able to undergo certain surgical procedures or might find ourselves or our loved ones developing infections that cannot be cured.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem effecting human health, the public, the environment, animal health and food production and everyone can help tackle it. As consumers of animal-derived food, our demands for antibiotic-free products, low food prices and our concerns for animals’ welfare can all have an impact by pressurising producers and retailers to comply with antibiotic use guidelines and best practices.”

She said that addressing antimicrobial resistance in livestock farming is challenging and the review, ‘Scoping review of approaches for improving antimicrobial stewardship in livestock farmers and veterinarians’, published as the Editor’s Choice July 2020 in the Preventive Veterinary Medicine journal, showed that there was no universal solution.

Lucyna and Professor Lesley Price have also written a piece about their research, published in The Conversation¬†here¬†entitled ‘Antibiotic resistance: how drug misuse in livestock farming is a problem for human health’.

Lucyna added: “Our research showed that there is no “one size fits all” solution and different strategies might be needed to improve responsible use of antibiotics in different livestock sectors. However, external pressures from Governments or consumers were identified as one of the common influencing factors.

“When making decisions on whether or not to use antibiotics, farmers and vets should ideally do what is best for the animal while reducing the risk of developing antimicrobial resistance. This means not using antibiotics when not needed, using the right antibiotic at the right dose and right duration when required to treat particular type of infection, but importantly preventing these infections in the first place.

“However, reducing the use of antibiotics and applying measures to prevent the spread of infections could generate additional costs for the farmers and result in higher food prices.”

The research paper is available at no charge until September 19 here.

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