Have you ever used an antibiotic drug for some infection and it worked perfectly…. Then you used the same drug for the same or another infection at a later time, and realized that the drug didn’t work as before? Or has that same thing happened to your pet, your poultry or cattle?
Watch it! You or your animal(s) may be having Antibiotic resistance!
Antibiotic resistance is when humans and animals become increasingly resistant over time to antibiotics that would normally treat and resolve common infections. This means that an antibiotic that used to work perfectly for your bacterial infections have stopped being as effective as before. Antibiotic resistance makes simple infections that should resolve easily more difficult to treat, thereby making the drugs useless and ineffective for your body system. Antibiotic resistance has become a big public health issue in both humans and animals worldwide. All over the world, various diseases such as gonorrheoa, tuberculosis, Staphylococcus, and enterococci are now resistant to antibiotics that used to bring an immediate cure for them, making such diseases increasingly difficult to treat. Also, a person or an animal who is experiencing antibiotic resistance would have issues treating wounds from trauma, accidents, and surgeries especially in case where infections occur on such wounds. In animals, especially with pets dogs, poultry farms, cattle, sheep and goats, antibiotics are routinely and indiscriminately used for various purposes. While some of the antibiotics used in animals are not currently used to treat human disease, many of them like tetracyclines, penicillins, and sulfonamides, are also used in the treatment of infections in humans.
Causes of antibiotic resistance
- Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in humans
It is common for people to use antibiotics inappropriately for themselves and for their animals – especially without proper prescription from their medical and veterinary doctors. Even more important is the fact that a lot of people do not complete their full dosage of antibiotics, and abandon them once they start feeling well. Also, due to lack of proper diagnosis, a lot of people use the wrong antibiotics for the wrong infections without knowing that some infections are only treatable by some specific antibiotics. These indiscriminate use invariably leads to build-up of antibiotic resistance.
- Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animals
In most food-animal farms e.g., poultry, cattle, sheep and goats, antibiotics are routinely used to prevent disease outbreaks, to treat disease outbreaks and also to enhance the rapid growth of animals. The problem remains the inappropriate uses of these antibiotics even when they are not necessary. This promotes the build-up of antibiotic resistance in these animals which can be transferred to human beings when we eat the animals. The threat to human health resulting from inappropriate antibiotic use in food animals is significant, as the resistant bacterial organisms in this livestock are widely disseminated in food products that we eat. As a standard procedure, food animals should go through a ‘waiting period’ before being sold to the population as food. However, these waiting periods are hardly adhered to by the producers and farmers here in Nigeria leading to the transmission and spread of antibiotic resistance. Therefore, antibiotics directly affect humans when they come in contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria from food animals, or when they ingest antibiotic residues from food animals. Antibiotics indirectly affect humans when they come in contact with resistant organisms that have been spread to various components of the ecosystem (e.g., water and soil) as a result of antibiotic use in food animals.
How do we reduce the effects of Antibiotics in our bodies and in our animals?
- Use antibiotics cautiously and only when necessary. The only way to know when to really use antibiotics is to get a proper diagnosis and prescription from your medical doctor (for humans) and veterinary doctor (for animals). This is also best for you so that you can use the right antibiotic that is most effective for your infection.
- Do not use antibiotics to treat viral infections, such as influenza, the common cold, a runny nose or a sore throat. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections so they would not work for the viral infections
- When you are given antibiotics by your doctor or veterinary doctor (for your animals), ensure you take the full prescription even if you are feeling better. Ensure that members of your family do the same and make sure you present your animals at agreed times so the vet finishes the antibiotic dose.
- Never share antibiotics with others and don’t use leftover prescriptions
- Always remember that each time you take an antibiotic when it is not necessary, the effectiveness of the antibiotic decreases and it might not work the next time you really need it.
How do we manage antibiotic resistance in animals?
- Ensure you maintain good health, biosecurity and good management of your pet, herd or poultry.
- Make sure you have effective and strict programs in place for disease control and maintain good sanitation
- Ensure that vaccination of your pet, herd or poultry is up to date.
References; CDC, NIAID, WHO, McEwen and Ferdoka-Cray (2002)