[ Dr Moloy Sarmah Baruah ]
Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections in humans as well as in animals and in birds. But in recent years significant complications and difficulties have arisen among practicing physicians and veterinarians because of antibiotic resistance developed by most of the bacteria.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria changes its response towards a particular antibiotic. This antibiotic resistance can be defined as the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of an antibiotic. It is a specific type of drug resistance. This antibiotic resistance may evolve naturally via natural selection through random mutation of bacteria; else it could also be engineered by repeated and improper uses of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are meant for treating bacterial infections; they are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, sore throats, the common flu, etc. But the current practice of indiscriminate use of antibiotics against these diseases leads to development of antibiotic resistance against the secondary bacteria associated with those diseases.
As thought, generally antibiotic resistance develops not against humans or animals; it develops against bacteria only. Once infections are caused by the resistant bacteria the treatment of such infection is really difficult compared to those caused by non-resistant bacteria.
Earlier, antibiotics as growth promoters were used in food animals, particularly in poultry, but very it was frequently observed that the use of antibiotics in food animals as a growth promoter might cause the genesis of antibiotic resistance bacteria. These bacteria later transmit to humans via the animal food chain, hence the banning of growth promoters.
Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat by the recent antibiotics.
Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians, and overused or misused by the public.
Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.
In the agriculture and veterinary sectors, only use antibiotics under veterinary supervision. Never use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases. Good animal husbandry practices should be strictly followed in the farm. Good animal husbandry practices (GAHP) is a wide range of on-farm and after-produce activities which covers mostly food quality, food safety, and security. It also comprises the environmental impacts on production system, food processing, value addition, animal health, workers welfare and health, etc.
Antibiotic resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality. Therefore, the world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behaviour change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. (The contributor is Assistant Chief Technical Officer, Animal Science, ICAR-KVK West Siang, ICAR AP Centre, Basar)
[ Dr Moloy Sarmah Baruah ]