Ghent University Tackles Antibiotic Resistance

BELGIUM - The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ghent University has published a position paper covering its view of presence of extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli in poultry, which show a high degree of resistance to antibiotics.
calendar icon 1 June 2011
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In the light of the recent discussion on the presence of ESBL-producing E. coli in poultry, the faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ghent University comments: 'Increasing levels of resistance in bacteria towards antimicrobials implies a major threat for both public and veterinary health. In some cases, the use of antimicrobials in animals can attribute to an increase in resistance levels in human medicine. The opposite is also valid: antimicrobial resistance in humans can influence resistance levels in animal husbandry. These facts need to be taken very seriously by all inflicted, including agriculture. Farmers, veterinarians, the feed and pharmaceutical industries need to take responsibility and make extra efforts to ensure the prudent use of antimicrobials. This should result in a decrease of antimicrobial use making it possible to control the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. Short term action is necessary that will lead to a decline in antimicrobial consumption in animals.

'Firstly, we urge for a higher reluctance in using antimicrobials in animal husbandry. Especially preventive and routine use should be avoided as much as possible. Administration of an antimicrobial compound should always follow a proper diagnosis. Methaphylactic (i.e. treating a whole group when disease is only observed in a part of the group) or therapeutic use on the other hand remains the best solution for a range of diseases. This is indispensable for animal health and well being.

'Secondly, a larger transparency concerning antimicrobial use in animals is needed. For Belgium, no consumption figures are available at the moment. Together with all sectors involved, antimicrobial consumption and antimicrobial resistance must be monitored. Along with that, animal disease must be registered and linked to antimicrobial consumption. Based on these figures, trends can be analyzed and aims can be put forward to reduce antimicrobial use and prevent antimicrobial resistance. This system will also allow to give valuable feed-back to veterinarians and farmers.

'Thirdly, there is a great need for a thorough and elusive campaign to inform and sensitise veterinarians, farmers and animal owners about the use of antimicrobials and its consequences, like the campaign in human medicine. Attention must be given to the correct and prudent use of antimicrobials (drug of choice, dosing, sticking to a therapy etc) and possible alternatives based on prevention of infectious diseases through a higher and better biosecurity, vaccination, optimal feeding and proper housing. The implementation and follow up of this preventive health care is a task for the veterinarian (responsible for herd health control).

'On top of this, investing more in antimicrobial use and resistance research in animals, and the possible transfer of resistance between humans and animals, is crucial. Scientific research and the suggested measures can of course not only be limited to ESBL carrying bacteria, but must cover the entire topic of antimicrobial resistance and related items. Together with a more extensive research on prevention of infectious diseases, all of this will lead to a reduction of antimicrobial consumption, a more responsible and more transparent use of antimicrobials in animals,' according to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ghent University.

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