Excessive use of antimicrobials in intensive livestock farming as One Health issue

One of a series of blogs written by CABI editors for One Health Day November 3rd 2016

Most antibiotics in livestock farming are used in aquaculture, but significant amounts are also used in terrestrial livestock species, particularly in poultry and pigs.


Most antibiotics in intensive livestock farming are used for non-therapeutic purposes

Approximately 70% of antibiotics are used for non- therapeutic purposes, i.e. many antibiotics are used in sub- therapeutic doses and over prolonged periods, which leads to the development of genes that confer antimicrobial resistance to animal pathogens. These genes can subsequently be transferred to human pathogens and it is estimated that 75% of recently emerging diseases in humans are of animal origin.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) problems are further exacerbated by the fact that antibiotic resistance genes were found in bacteria long before antibiotics were ever used on super-pathogens in farm animals.

AMR is a worldwide problem, which clearly affects both animal and human health, and hence it is truly One Health issue.


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British Vets Resist “Political Measures” to Restrict Veterinary Use of Antibiotics

By Miroslav Djuric, DVM

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) marked the 5th European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November 2012) by releasing a statement in which it reaffirms its commitment to promoting responsible use of antibiotics, but also warns that political measures to reduce antimicrobial resistance in Europe and the UK are not based on sound science.




The statement lists activities undertaken and measures implemented by the BVA to promote responsible use of these medicines, including the BVA’s poster campaign for responsible use of antibiotics and the BVA’s membership of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) Alliance, which contributes significantly to European-wide guidance on antimicrobial use. The BVA also successfully lobbied for responsible use of medicines to be enshrined in the new Code of Professional Conduct to which all vets in the UK must adhere.

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Handwashing: harnessing the yuck factor to improve public health

The recent E. coli O104:H4 outbreak has set us thinking about handwashing again. (We've tackled it before in  Now wash your hands)

It’s very difficult to change people’s behaviour  and to prove my point,  just watch this video
Do Shocking Images Change Hygiene Behavior”.  The video refers to a study from University of Denver "Using a relevant threat, EPPM and interpersonal communication to change hand-washing behaviours on campus" which found that making you feel awful about what might be on your hands works better than appealing to the conscience.

But as well as “yuck” factor signs which seem to work on the Denver students,  I wondered what else could be done..

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Man Flu Really Exists, New Study Shows

Man flu is considered by large segments of society to be the psychological condition of men with colds. It is often said that when men have a cold they think it is a flu and as a consequence they moan more than women and stay longer in bed until they feel better.

Man flu is not to be confused with the current H1N1 pandemic flu which is affecting humans in some 40 countries. There has also been one swine case on a farm in Canada.

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H1N1 Flu Panic Hits Pigs and Producers Hard

More than a month since the first reports of influenza in humans in Mexico, the first case of the H1N1 influenza in pigs has been reported. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced on 2 May that a H1N1 influenza virus was found in a pig herd in Alberta. Since then, the CFIA has assured the public that the outbreak on the Alberta farm has been fully contained and that additional analyses of the virus have confirmed that the virus is the human strain. It is highly probable that the pigs were exposed to the virus from a farm worker who had recently returned from Mexico and had been exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Signs of illness were subsequently observed in the pigs, but both the farm worker and all of the pigs are recovering or have recovered.

The outbreak came as the World Health Organisation agreed that the virus should be called influenza A (H1N1) rather than “swine flu”.

Although this outbreak remains the only confirmed case of H1N1 influenza in pigs so far, and although in this case the virus was transmitted from a man to the pigs, a number of countries have resorted to using panic measures to prevent spread of non-existent “swine flu” even before this outbreak, which have had a significant negative impact on welfare of pigs and pig farming.

For example, Egypt has reportedly culled its entire pig population (approximately 250,000 animals) without any evidence of disease in pigs, which has prompted the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to issue a statement that there is no need to slaughter animals in view of preventing circulation of the influenza A (H1N1) virus.

In Afghanistan, a pig has been quarantined at Kabul Zoo after visitors raised concerns it could infect them with “swine flu”. According to media reports, this is Afghanistan’s only known pig, because pigs and pork products are illegal in this country for religious reasons.

The pig industry has also suffered significant financial losses due to the suspension of imports of live pigs and pork products by dozens of countries.

The US National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has stated that the US pork industry is almost on the verge of financial disaster and has called on everyone working in the pork industry to address “influenza outbreak misinformation”. The NPPC statement also adds that the media still make reference to the current influenza as “swine flu” despite the consensus of international scientific organizations, including the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Agriculture that this is not “swine flu”, but influenza A (H1N1).

Since the flu outbreak first hit the news headlines, producers have lost $6 per pig, which has cost the industry about $2.5 million per day, according to the NPPC.

Come up and look at my genes

While most geneticists may have a hard time convincing non-scientists to look at DNA gels, a company is offering DNA art portraits which allow customers to show off their own DNA bands to anyone.


The “DNA portraits” point to bands which the company says are associated with particular characteristics as follows:

“• Sport: Show off your muscles without having to flex. This gene called ACTN2 is expressed in all muscle cells.
• Brain: This gene (IGF-2)  is associated with intelligence. It is not the only gene whose expression correlates with IQ, but one of them that is involved in development of the brain.
• Love: This gene ( NGF2 ) is one of the genes responsible for those butterflies in your stomach when you meet that special someone.
• Gender:  This gene (Amelogenin); is often used to determine whether someone is male or female.”

Is this a step on the way to potential suitors exhibiting their genetic potential through a medley of tastefully framed DNA tests? Rather than inviting someone to see their etchings, or evidence of their sporting prowess, might they can give a brief presentation of their genomic profile (lecturer’s pointing stick is not provided)?

With prices starting at £268, not everyone will be rushing to make their home look a little bit more like an academic conference. DNA 11, the company behind the idea, makes no claims that the DNA portraits are anything more than a conversation piece – perhaps centring around what else you could get for £268.

Nazim Ahmed, co-founder of DNA 11 says the service “allows clients to analyze their genes in an interesting way that creates great entertainment value for friends and family”.

For more about DNA fingerprinting and its applications, see the CAB DIRECT database.