The sun sets over a red hog barn. National Pork Board

Resistant-gene finding serves as wake-up call

Time is ticking away, and the recent finding of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on a sow farm serves as a wake-up for producers to have the necessary work completed before expanded Veterinary Feed Directive rules go into effect Jan. 1.

No, it’s not Jan. 1 yet, but an alarm of sorts went off this week.

If you are a livestock producer, and unless you have been living under a rock or playing the part of Rip Van Winkle, you know that on Jan. 1 you will be living under new Food and Drug Administration regulations dictating the use of antibiotics in your herds.

When the calendar turns to 2017, all livestock producers will need to have Veterinary Feed Directives to be able to purchase and use most feed-based antibiotics, and they will need prescriptions for antibiotics to be used in livestock water. The bullseye has been firmly placed on the antibiotics that are deemed to be medically important in human medicine.

All of this is being done to calm the public’s fears, justified or not, of livestock being treated with antibiotics as a factor in creating bacteria in humans that have become resistant to those antibiotics.

Fast-forward to this week as a research team from Ohio State University announced that they had discovered the first transmissible carbapenem-resistant enterobactericeae in U.S. livestock. More specifically, the CRE was discovered at a farrow-to-finish operation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider CRE an “urgent” public health threat. These multidrug-resistant bacteria can produce serious, life-threatening disease, and are found primarily in hospitalized patients. Another concern is that CRE in livestock poses a threat to animal health, as well as human health because of possible introduction into the food supply in fresh meat products. Though a concern, that did not happen in this case, since the resistant gene ID’d in the study was not in a market hog. U.S. pork is safe to eat.

This is a wake-up call for producers to have their pigs in a row, if not already, most definitely by Jan. 1. A close relationship with your herd veterinarian is imperative, and that connection should be used to the Nth-degree. You do not want your operation to be caught off-guard when the expanded VFDs go into effect on Jan. 1.

More incidents such as Ohio State researchers’ findings are not what your operation, or the U.S. livestock industry as a whole, needs.

Don’t wait; time is running out.

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