By Carissa Odland, DVM, Pipestone Veterinary Services
Imagine it’s late in the day and as you are watching the evening news you learn about an individual who has been confirmed with an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection. The story continues describing how there has been an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections around the world and the news anchor quotes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by stating that antibiotic use in livestock is a large contributor to antimicrobial resistance in humans. The route of transmission for the resistance between livestock and humans is suspected to be through food or the environment …
The sound of the TV soon becomes a blur in the background and you start thinking about a recent group of pigs that went through a health problem in one of your barns. The pigs became sick fast — they were thumping, feverish and not eating or drinking. When your veterinarian came out to the farm, diagnostics were collected and a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus introduction was confirmed along with secondary bacterial infections. You followed the veterinarian’s recommendations of medication through the water as well as individually treating sick pigs with an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication.
How many of you can relate to this experience of sickness showing up suddenly in the barn and needing to run antibiotics in the water or giving individual pigs antibiotic treatments to save their lives? Is there any harm in doing this? Is that what the news anchor was talking about?
As a veterinarian who is involved in disease challenges and medication recommendations every day, these are the types of questions that I wanted to investigate further. As a result, I enrolled with the University of Minnesota master’s degree program to study and help provide answers to some of these critical questions:
- When we treat our pigs with an antibiotic, does the antimicrobial resistance patterns change (resistance to an increased number of drugs)?
- If so, how long does the resistance remain in the pig or environment?
- Are we able to eliminate the transmission of resistance from one group to the next group within the environment?
As an industry, we care. We care about making sure that our pigs are healthy and that antibiotics work to treat disease if/when needed. And we care about our family, our friends and others — we care about doing our part to make sure antibiotics continue to work for human health. Because we care, it is critical for us to continue to deepen our understanding of antimicrobial resistance.
You are probably thinking “Great questions, Dr. O! Can you just get to the part where you tell us the answers?!”
But the truth is, we don’t have all the answers yet, so I invite you on this journey as I finish my master’s project and navigate through some of these questions.