It’s our own complacency that brought on the threat of antimicrobial resistance, says Trisha Dowling, a professor of veterinary clinical pharmacology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
“We got complacent just pretty much thinking there was a pill for every ill. So there’s been a whole lot of use of antibiotics just in case someone or some animal might get an infection,” Dowling explained in a recent interview (included below). “We’ve used antibiotics to cover up shoddy management practices and even health practices for humans.”
Antimicrobials have been prescribed and used when there is no diagnosis, or when the ill-suited culprit is a virus, and this is true in the livestock, human and pet world. That point requires that we “clean our own house,” Dowling says, as some of the issues we have now stem from the average consumer’s own food safety practices, and our love of having pets in the home.
“Resistance is a two-way street,” she says.
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Dowling says it’s unfortunate that politicians and food companies are driving the management and access to these valuable tools, that agriculture and the livestock industry needs to lead on this. “Nobody seems to be want to talk about what it looks like if we take these tools away,” Dowling says, stressing that without antimicrobials we will have sicker animals, less food and possibly more human health issues.
Dowling isn’t discouraged in the pursuit of solutions to antimicrobial resistance, however, and feels we’re still in the beginning stages of getting ahead of livestock health.
“I do believe in the ingenuity of science, and I really think the way to go is preventing disease with vaccines. I think we’re very, very primitive in our understanding of immunology and the immune system, and I think a lot of the vaccines we use are kind of hitting them with a sledgehammer,” she told us. “…chasing bugs with drugs is pretty useless, so we need to go after prevention in the first place.”