This week (November 12-18) is “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” — promoted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).

In its recent Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC writes that antibiotic therapy is one of the most important tools available to combat life-threatening bacterial infections, but that consumers mistakenly seek antibiotics for conditions that do not benefit from antibiotic treatment.

The Get Smart About Antibiotics Week observance is a means to raise awareness about the threat of antibiotic resistance and the need to decrease inappropriate antibiotic use. The CDC says patients, health-care providers, hospital administrators, and policy makers must work together to employ effective strategies for improving antibiotic use to improve health, save lives, and save money.

Getting smart on the livestock side, too
It’s great to see the human medical side embracing judicious use of antibiotics, but it also needs to be pointed out that the food-animal veterinary side is working diligently to use antibiotics prudently and effectively to combat disease while preventing antimicrobial resistance as much as possible.

You can find comprehensive judicious use guidelines, for example, on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website for beef cattle, dairy cattle and swine.

And AVMA is not alone. Groups such as the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association are putting into place HACCP programs to reduce antibiotic residues and resistance in dairy herds (read about it here).

Dale Moore, DVM, MPVM, PhD at Washington State University has an online course/presentation on Farm-a-cology 101 that teaches viewers how to judiciously use antibiotics in dairy animals.

The Beef Quality Assurance program has training programs that include judicious use principles for beef and dairy cattle.

Companies are also working on alternatives to antibiotics for food animals. Last week Diamond V announced a research project in conjunction with USDA’s National Animal Disease Center to examine the impact of antibiotics, dietary supplements, and stress on the microbial communities and host mucosal tissues of the swine intestinal ecosystem. The goal is to identify alternatives to traditional antibiotics for use in reducing the antibiotic resistance gene reservoir and food borne pathogens in farm animals. Read more here.

And this week antibiotics are the focus of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture’s Antibiotic Use and Resistance Symposium in Columbus, Ohio.

So while the human medical community is working on this issue, be confident that the food-animal veterinary community is tackling this issue as well.