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Antibiotics are Precious Resource for Animals as Well as Humans

17 August 2015

US - Antibiotics are just as precious resource for animals as they are for humans, said Professor Mary Barton.

“Until recently most attention has been paid to antimicrobial use in intensive livestock production as it’s been shown that resistant organisms and their genes transfer to humans via the food chain. Little attention was given to any risks that might be associated with use in companion animals.

“This situation is changing though as there is more evidence that household transmission of infection between humans and companion animals does occur. For example, a recent study of E coli, which causes intestinal infections in dogs and cats as well as humans, found that it is able to transfer between humans and animals and vice versa.”

According to Professor Barton there is still much to learn about interactions of humans and companion animals in relation to multi-drug resistance to bacteria, such as the routes of transmission and why the issue has emerged so suddenly and escalated so quickly.

“Improving clinical practice procedures and infection control will minimise spread of infection between animals in the clinic but also to protect staff and animal owners. Good hygiene practices are key.

“If we continue down our current path, resistance will continue to emerge to new antibiotics. We must use what we have wisely.”

Professor Barton outlined some key precautions to take when prescribing antibiotics to companion animals, including:

  • Ensuring the antibiotic is needed
  • Selecting the appropriate antibiotic at the correct dose
  • Treating for the appropriate length of time.

“We also need to restrict the use of some antibiotics that are especially critical in human medicine. Some classes should be reserved just for animal use,” she said.

“Antibiotics are a precious resource for human and animal health. The health of humans is linked to the health of animals – so the issue of antibiotic resistance needs to be addressed by both human health professionals and veterinarians.”

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