Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Antibiotic resistance: the livestock link

AUSTRALIA has exceptionally low levels of antibiotic resistance in people and animals, Professor Peter Collignon told the BeefEx conference, and we need to work harder to keep it that way.
Dr Collignon, an infectious diseases physician associated with the Australian National University, is a vocal campaigner for the necessity of fighting antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are a “miracle drug”, he told BeefEx, one of the few drugs that actually cures people instead of merely preventing them from succumbing further to an illness.
But resistance is rapidly eroding the effectiveness of antibiotics. Once the current classes of drug become ineffective, there are few options left.

The livestock connection

Dr Collignon thinks that by necessity, campaigning against resistance means campaigning against the overuse of antibiotics in food animals.
Around the world, between 70-80 per cent of all antibiotics used are applied to livestock.
Careful regulation has meant Australia has some of the lowest levels of resistance in the world - for some classes of antibiotic, the lowest levels - even though we have among the highest levels of antibiotic use in the world.
Elsewhere, antibiotic resistance is rising rapidly. In Europe, several countries are contending with more than 50 per cent resistance to the isolates that cause blood stream infections like septicaemia. Even where there are relatively low levels of resistance, as with the Scandanavian countries, resistance rates are still at 5-10 per cent, which is a marked increase from a decade ago.
But Dr Collignon’s worst nightmares lie in developing countries, where a combination of poor regulation and polluted water - water is a major vector for antibiotic-resistant bacteria - are becoming irredeemable.

An untreatable problem

In India, where E. coli is the most common cause of urinary tract infections, “to all intents and purposes, about half those E. coli are untreatable”.

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