From Merck Animal Health's BRD Report: From the Fence Post. This post is part of a series that focuses on understanding antibiotic resistance, defining what antibiotic stewardship means and how cattle producers can be better stewards of antibiotic use. Brian Lubbers, D.V.M., Ph.D., Diplomate ACVCP, director of the Microbial Surveillance Lab, a unit of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, is a contributor for this series.

In the first post of this series on antibiotics, we talked about understanding resistance and the impact it can have on effectively treating bovine respiratory disease (BRD).

As discussed in the previous post, antibiotic use doesn’t generally create resistance in individual bacteria, but we can amplify resistance in a population of bacteria by using antibiotics. While we’ll never be able to completely eliminate resistance, it’s still important to learn as much as we can about how it exists within our environment in order to slow it down.

One of those ways is by tracking and evaluating trends through surveillance programs. By monitoring resistance patterns at several points along the production line – from farm animals to retail meat – we can learn more about resistance, when and where it’s occurring, and what factors may contribute to its development. We also can compare surveillance information with diagnostic results to get a better overall picture of resistance.

That’s what we’re currently working on at the Microbial Surveillance Lab, which is a collaborative effort with the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The lab is a sponsored partnership with Merck Animal Health.

In order to piece together this “big picture” of antibiotic resistance, it’s important to have a well-represented sample to work with. Technical services teams at Merck Animal Health help us secure those wide-ranging samples, both geographically and from different industries, including feedlot, cow-calf and dairy.

Antibiotic resistance is a complex topic that we still don’t fully understand. By implementing surveillance programs, we can gather information about the emergence of bacterial resistance and how it spreads and ultimately determine the best strategies for mitigating its impact in livestock production.