1 May 2020
Real farming solutions needed to combat innapptopriate use of antibiotics
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Antibiotics in the modern world remain a cure-all for so many diseases that we take for granted. At the same time, experts fear that the overuse of antibiotics in the human sector, and inappropriate use in the farming industry could lead to grave results.

The issues related to misuse of antibiotics continues to be a growing global problem. Those issues have been finely highlighted in the last few months by the stark menace of Covid-19. It may not be a virus which can be effectively extinguished by antibiotics, but currently it has no known treatment and the global fallout from that is putting lives at risk, de-structuring our everyday cultures and   pounding world economies.

Recent studies provide startling results

Continuing misuse of antibiotics both for humans and within the farming industry can only lead to fungi, parasites and bacteria becoming resistant to antimicrobial substances (AMR). As far as the farming industry is concerned, research shows that inappropriate practices with antibiotics is playing a significant role in the propagation of resistant pathogens that could enter the food chain.

Recent studies on how antibiotics are used show quite shocking results.  Statistics suggest that the amount of antibiotics used in farm animals is not secondary to use in the human medical sector. Even though antibiotics were clearly introduced primarily for human consumption, it is now clear that over 70% of antibiotic use is practised on farm animals. It is also now clear that a significant proportion is used not to cure ailments and diseases – but as a prevention. They were never meant to be used in this way. There has been a great increase in farmers blatantly injecting whole herds as a security measure. This overuse is believed to be the reason current antibiotics are struggling to act as efficient cures.

Pig farming, antibiotics and South East Asia

Pig farming is important in South East Asia. As well as providing income for the small farm holder, it is now a big industry – and it is the larger pig farming organizations who have the budgets to use antibiotics on a large scale and not always for the reason (disease control) for which they were created. It is now being used as a food additive to enhance growth and body mass of pigs.

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Global hotspots

The long-term consequence of AMR is almost unthinkable. Antibiotics are the cure-all for so many debilitating diseases – if they were to become ineffective, their absence would lead to a scary world where we are constantly battling superbugs. However, even now, “superbug hotspots” are appearing across the globe.

Hotspots – areas where AMR amongst farm animals is taking hold – are springing up in diverse places such as China, Vietnam and North east India. It also appears to be spreading to areas such as Kenya, Morocco, south china, Uruguay and central India says The Guardian. Experts believe the overuse of antibiotics in animal farming has led to the development of “superbugs” which are resistant to current antibiotics.

A way forward

Educating farmers and consumers about the long-term effects about the misuse of antibiotics needs to happen globally. This must be complimented by enabling farmers to attain skills in reducing the possibility of disease in farm animals – such as good hygiene – biosecurity and other appropriate vaccines.

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