Resistance is a real threat, says vet

Antibiotic use | Epidemiologist advises industry to adhere to and promote responsible use

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Cattle producers must educate consumers about practices on their farms, particularly when controversial topics such as antimicrobial resistance arise, says veterinarian, epidemiologist and farmer Leigh Rosengren.

Speaking at last month’s Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association convention, the Midale, Sask., expert said she agreed with an A&W spokesperson at the same meeting who said it wasn’t her job to educate consumers.

“It’s yours and mine,” Rosengren said. “We are the ones that are producing the commodity that we want people to eat. We are the industry who needs the consumer to trust what we produce. It’s our responsibility to explain practices, particularly when the consumer is afraid, occasionally misinformed and worried.”

Rosengren said people are frightened about antimicrobial resistance but don’t necessarily understand it.

She said it is a threat to their health.

“This isn’t some fear mongering. This is a true and honest and real threat,” she said.

However, antibiotic resistance is not the same as antibiotic residue in meat.

“There are no antibiotics in Canadian meat,” she said to applause from producers.

Rosengren said residue is a chemical issue that is predictable and understandable.

However, there are antibiotic resistant bacteria in Canadian meat.

Bacteria in the gut carry genes that can make them resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria contaminate meat during slaughter, and the consumer can be infected if the meat is subsequently handled or cooked improperly.

“Multi-resistant bacteria are commonplace in animals and people in Canada and in most other countries,” Rosengren said.

They are found in animals that have been treated and in those that haven’t. They are found in animals on organic farms where treatment hasn’t occurred for years.

Rosengren said doctors are concerned because diseases that were treatable for decades aren’t so easy to treat now.

Cattle producers are concerned because products that worked on the farm don’t work anymore, and there are few new alternatives.

“The rate of resistance in agriculture and in humans is on the rise,” Rosengren said.

“It is an issue that truly is threatening advances in both human and veterinary medicine.”

It is critical that producers carefully manage antibiotic use on their farms.

“The benefit that comes from treating that animal has to outweigh the increased burden that we’re putting on resistance,” she said.

“Think three times before we pick up that bottle of critically important antimicrobials.”

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