Conference Tackles Antibiotic Use28 October 2011
US - The issue of antibiotic use in food animals and its effect on antibiotic resistance in humans was discussed at a two-day conference in Chicago, writes Chris Wright, senior editor of ThePoultrySite.
“Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: A Dialogue for a Common Purpose” a symposium organised by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, took a close look at how antibiotics are used in animal husbandry and its effects on human health.
Dr Scott Hurd from Iowa State University set the stage by saying that the presence of a hazard creates concern, but concern is not risk. Human health risk requires sufficient exposure that will result in actual harm.
He stressed that the causal chain for antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacterial food borne risk assessment includes:
- AMR bacteria are selected in the food animal as a result of antimicrobial use;
- humans ingest sufficient AMR bacteria present in the relevant food product from treated animals;
- disease which causes the patient to seek medical care and treatment with an antibiotic to which the bacteria is resistant that results in an adverse health outcome.
He stated that risk management interventions at various points along the causal chain are intended to minimise and contain AMR food borne bacteria to ensure public health and food safety.
Dr Hurd concluded that alternative risk of sub-optimal animal health may be higher than the risk of on-farm antibiotic use.
A panel of veterinarians specifically addressed: beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine and poultry. They all agreed that while there was minimal risk that the use of antibiotics in animals caused resistance in humans, they also acknowledged that the risk was not zero. Therefore there was some potential of resistance being created.
The panelists who covered the different species stressed that they would much rather prevent disease than treat it. Therefore, they emphasised the importance of biosecurity and good management practices.
The human medicine and public health perspectives were also presented during the conference. There was animated dialogue among the 150 participants in the audience, not all of whom were in favour of the use of antibiotics in animals.
Dr Mike Lormore, Director of Dairy Veterinary Operations, Pfizer Animal Health, summed up the meeting by addressing the issue of consumer perceptions. It is clear that the American public is against the use of antibiotics use as growth promoters.
He said that communicating with consumers about our common values is more important than communicating scientific understanding. "People need to know that you care before they care that you know."
Dr Lormore concluded by saying that providing basic information can have a positive impact on consumer attitudes about meat and dairy, especially regarding the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals.