Meat eating linked to drug resistance

Meat eating linked to drug resistance

CPF pledges reduced use of antimicrobials

Up to 38,000 lives are being lost annually in Thailand from the consumption of meat contaminated with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria that leads to drug resistance in humans, experts in the commercial livestock industry have said.

Dr Damnoen Chaturavittawong, senior vice president of the swine veterinary service department at Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), made the comments on Wednesday, during a press visit to a company farm in Rayong. The company, known as a titan in the industry, organised the event to showcase its policy of reducing the use of antimicrobial medications in the treatment of livestock.

Among the participants were 30 foreign medical and livestock officials, including delegates from Myanmar, the US, France and Finland, who attended last week's Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) to discuss infectious disease control.

"We are currently awaiting approval of an action plan by the CPF board to bolster efforts to effectively decrease antimicrobial use in our livestock," Dr Damnoen said.

Company CEO Adirek Sripatak announced last October a new antimicrobial policy will take effect by 2020. According to him, this will reduce the use of antimicrobials to the minimum necessary for therapeutic purposes under veterinary oversight.

Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria typically become a cause for concern after organisms ingest medication which kills bacteria, such as antibiotics. These drugs kill off the weaker, non-resistant bacteria, leaving the stronger bacteria in the body to multiply, strengthening their immunity to the medication.

This leaves individuals who ingest food containing antimicrobial-resistant bacteria susceptible to contracting the bacteria themselves, leaving them at risk of becoming immune to certain drugs.

Reports by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimate that five million deaths in Asia could be credited to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by 2050 if measures are not carried out to decrease their use.

"The inappropriate use of antimicrobials in food and agriculture -- in all sectors -- is a problem contributing to the AMR crisis, because every time we use these medicines we risk blunting their effectiveness for the future," said FAO chief veterinarian Dr Juan Lubroth, at the PMAC conference last week.

One of the main antibiotics which has been found to result in AMR is Colistin. The substance is normally used to treat gram-negative bacteria infections, which include pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections and meningitis.

According to Dr Apisit Kittawornrat, assistant vice president of CPF's swine veterinary service department, the company stopped the use of Colistin to treat sick pigs in 2017.

He said CPF significantly reduced Colistin use after it was found to cause varying degrees of resistance to the E coli bacteria.

He added policies for the future include increasing the input of veterinarians with the aim of reducing the number of drugs being used "unnecessarily".

"We also have a corporate standard which assures pigs will not be given antibiotics for at least one month before slaughter," Dr Apisit said. "We are also trying herbal medication, such as active charcoal to treat diarrhoea in piglets and white siris flowers to treat pregnancy problems and stomach aches."

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