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The Truth Behind Antimicrobial Resistance
Taking control of antimicrobial resistance is an undeniably complex issue, but the many misconceptions and popular myths surrounding antimicrobials and their usage make public education and cooperation far more difficult than they need to be. An informed public is a fundamental element in our fight against antimicrobial resistance, and as such it is imperative that we dispel these myths and misconceptions. Below are some truths regarding antimicrobials to help you separate the facts from the fiction.
Antimicrobials are naturally-occurring and are commonly produced through natural processes for medicinal use:
Antimicrobials are produced within our bodies and the bodies of animals to help fend off bacterial infections. We introduce foreign antimicrobials into our bodies as medicine to fight bacteria that we lack adequate natural defenses against. Some are produced artificially through chemical processes, but many of the antimicrobials we commonly use are produced in a laboratory environment through the fermentation of microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi.
Antimicrobial resistance can be passed between bacteria through shared DNA:
It’s possible for bacteria that have never encountered a particular antimicrobial to develop a resistance to it. This is because bacteria have the ability to share parts of their DNA with each other when the come in contact, which is one of the reasons antimicrobial resistance spreads so rapidly and uncontrollably.
Livestock that have been treated with antibiotics are perfectly safe to eat:
Despite the conjecture of certain lobby groups, properly administered antibiotics do not damage the quality of an animal’s meat. In fact, responsibly administered antibiotics improve an animal’s health, which in turn improves its quality of life and the quality of its meat.
Antimicrobials should only be used when prescribed following an evidence-based diagnosis:
Based on their own suspected diagnosis, many clients often request antibiotics to treat their animals. However, antimicrobials of any kind should never be prescribed without first confirming a bacterial infection through a laboratory analysis of a culture grown from the bacteria. Using the wrong antimicrobials, or any antimicrobials without the presence of a bacterial infection, is one of the main avoidable causes of rising antimicrobial resistance.
Antimicrobial resistance is not the fault of any particular group or industry:
Any and all use of antimicrobials contributes to antimicrobial resistance, and we all rely on antimicrobials in some way or another. To reduce our antimicrobial dependence and to slow the progress of resistance it will require the shared responsibility and cooperation of everyone, regardless of their position in the interconnected network of antimicrobial usage.
The threat of antimicrobial resistance affects people, animals, and the environment equally:
Many of the bacteria that have developed resistances to antimicrobials are capable of infecting humans as well as animals, but the pervasive threat of antimicrobial resistance goes beyond its direct biological impact. Without access to effective antimicrobials the livestock production industry will suffer greatly, restricting our access to food. It will also create a spike in mortality rates, especially amongst those recovering from surgeries. This will have obviously drastic consequences for our overall quality of life, but it will also cripple our economy by minimizing our workforce through the significant drop in population and widespread sickness amongst those still able to work.
Antimicrobial resistance is occurring around the world and has a growing international impact:
The phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance is equally applicable to all bacteria around the world, as all bacteria have the ability to develop and evolve a genetic resistance to antimicrobial treatment. Additionally, the economic and social implications of growing antimicrobial resistance are felt across borders in our interconnected global economy. It is an issue that no group or country can tackle in isolation.