The definition of sentient is to be ‘able to perceive or feel things.’ As sentient beings, all animals – from cows, pigs, to chickens… are able to experience pain, fear, comfort, joy and grief, just like humans.
So, not only do humans have these emotions in common with animals, we may both be antibiotic resistant as well. Most would prefer to have other things in common, like enjoying walks around the farm on a warm breezy day or enjoying a nice sunrise or sunset…That is all still very possible and you could do that today, but we still got this antibiotic resistant issue to tackle.
So here’s to hoping you are having a great day and with the risk of sounding like a “Debbie downer or a doomsday Dave,” let’s talk a little antibiotic resistance!
Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective. Our human levels of antibiotic resistance has a direct relation to the high consumption of antibiotics in the animals that we eat.
Each year, more than 30 million cattle, 100 million hogs, 200 million turkeys and eight billion chickens are processed in the U.S. The combined weight of livestock and poultry in the U.S. is more than triple the combined weight of American men and women. A 1,200 pound steer is equal to roughly six men, for example. If a steer needs treatment for pneumonia, common sense will tell you that it will require a larger dose. Similarly, it is logical that our combined U.S. livestock and poultry herds and flocks will require more antibiotics by volume than our combined human population. While these are crude calculations about antibiotic use and dosing, they reveal the misleading nature of the “80 percent of antibiotics are used in animals.
The CDC estimates that, at a minimum, more than two million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States, with at least 23,000 dying as a result
Antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics* are becoming more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. Infections from common antibiotic-resistant foodborne bacteria, such as Salmonella, can cause more severe health outcomes than infections with bacteria that are not resistant to antibiotics.
Across the world, the antibiotics that farmers use to prevent illness in their animals are losing effectiveness as bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. According to new research, it’s a huge problem, one that’s been masked by a longstanding focus on the risk that resistant bacteria pose to humans instead.
Antimicrobial resistance in animals grown for food in low to medium income countries has nearly tripled since the year 2000, according to a recent study in Science Magazine. Chickens and pigs have shown a marked increase in resistant strains of bacteria.
The global hot spots for antibiotic resistance in animals are China and India, Brazil and Turkey, Iran and Kenya, and a handful of other emerging economies—exactly the places where rising demand for meat is spurring huge expansions in industrial-scale animal farming.
According to the World Health Organization, more antibiotics are fed to farmed animals than are used to treat disease in human patients. Doctors over prescribe antibiotics, but huge amounts of antibiotics are used in fish farming and other intensive animal agriculture, up to four times the amount used in human medicine
One reason developing-world agriculture relies so heavily on antibiotics is that they allow farms to operate at low margins, without spending scarce funds on veterinary care or disease containment. But poor animal hygiene and lax biosecurity don’t only create the conditions that demand antibiotics—they also allow bacteria to flow off farms and into the wider world, increasing the chances that resistant bacteria could reach and sicken humans as well.
This bacteria can wind up infecting meat-eating humans, where it resists the medicines given to wipe them out. Potentially, this is a threat to human health.
The study states that 73 percent of all antimicrobial sold go into animals raised for food. This constitutes an over reliance on the antibiotics, which could lead to problems later as the bacteria continue to adapt to new medicines.
Although livestock production has plateaued in the U.S., the country has its own problems with bacterial resistance as well. Salmonella and campylobacter make hundreds of thousands of people sick every year.
Even when given antibiotics, animals still carry bacteria in their gut. Those bacteria, especially if resistant to antimicrobial, can spread when the host animal is slaughtered and processed. This can affect other meat products and even get into the water, which may be irrigated with contaminants.
Campylobacter, often contracted by eating raw or under prepared chicken, affects 1.3 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). International travel increases the chances of infection.
People can also spread it to each other by being in contact with anyone infected who does not wash their hands after using the restroom.
President Donald Trump’s rollbacks to regulations employed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) could make things worse, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
What are the steps that can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of antibiotic resistance.
According to The World Health Organization:
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, individuals can:
- Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
- Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
- Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
- Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
- Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials) and choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, policy makers can:
- Ensure a robust national action plan to tackle antibiotic resistance is in place.
- Improve surveillance of antibiotic-resistant infections.
- Strengthen policies, programmed, and implementation of infection prevention and control measures.
- Regulate and promote the appropriate use and disposal of quality medicines.
- Make information available on the impact of antibiotic resistance.
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, health professionals can:
- Prevent infections by ensuring your hands, instruments, and environment are clean.
- Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines.
- Report antibiotic-resistant infections to surveillance teams.
- Talk to your patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse.
- Talk to your patients about preventing infections (for example, vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, and covering nose and mouth when sneezing).
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the health industry can:
- Invest in research and development of new antibiotics, vaccines, diagnostics and other tools.
To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the agriculture sector can:
- Only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision.
- Not use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases in healthy animals.
- Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics and use alternatives to antibiotics when available.
- Promote and apply good practices at all steps of production and processing of foods from animal and plant sources.
- Improve biosecurity on farms and prevent infections through improved hygiene and animal welfare.
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