Alleviating and Eliminating the Threat of ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

We have previously provided an introduction to the meaning and implications of antibiotic resistance including a brief discussion on the action plan on antimicrobial resistance as provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Here we bring you added information as we continue to join advocacy efforts at combating the current increase in global antimicrobial resistance.


Antimicrobial drugs play a very critical role in the treatment and prevention of varying disease conditions in animals, humans, aquaculture and even crop production. However, in light of their numerous advantages, they are constantly misused leading to antimicrobial resistance. As a result of this gross misuse of antimicrobial drugs worldwide, we now have the potential risk of emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistant micro-organisms.

There are evidences that support the fact that the emergence of Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria in livestock production is connected to the emergence of Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria that colonize and infect the human population. It is therefore expedient to examine the different actions and activities within the Livestock sector that has inadvertently resulted into antimicrobial resistance in human. In a bid to keep diseases off a livestock farm (a poultry farm as a case study), farmers place different measures because financial sustainability and gain is of premium importance. Such measures include proper and adequate ventilation, temperature control, vaccination, biosecurity, adequate nutrition, housing, quarantine and proper spacing. As an added measure, antimicrobials are also used (albeit indiscriminately) for non-therapeutic preventive purposes to avoid future occurrence of disease conditions.

There are different factors that are crucial to the emergence of Antimicrobial resistance and they include,

  1. Widespread antimicrobial use: The widespread use of antimicrobials in agriculture, healthcare, aquaculture and horticulture can be identified as one of the drivers of antimicrobial resistance.
  2. Antimicrobial growth promoters: The use of antimicrobial growth promoters as feed additives in intensively produced animals has being found to alter the gut microbiota of treated animals and promote resistance transfer within the animal and environmental microbiome. The antimicrobial growth promoters are administered at sub-therapeutic doses to livestock animals through drinking of water or feed which are sold and used indiscriminately without veterinary prescription or supervision.
  3. Prophylaxis treatment: This is a type of treatment that involves the use of antimicrobials on susceptible but healthy animals to prevent the occurrence of diseases.
  4. Metaphylaxis: the administration of antimicrobials to a group of animals in which some of the animals in the group have exhibited signs of infection while others are healthy but risks becoming infected. It acts as a curative and preventive measure at the same time.

Antimicrobial resistance is rising to a new higher level and there are growing list of infections that are becoming difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. This include tuberculosis, pneumonia, foodborne diseases, gonorrhea and blood poisoning. In addition resistance to tetracycline, penicillins and sulphonamides has been recorded among animals and humans alike. This scourge of antimicrobial resistance is growing at an alarming rate globally and if care is not taken, the world might be back to the dark age where common infections and minor injuries can kill easily. It is therefore expedient that individuals and professionals employ measures that will reduce the spate of antimicrobial resistance. These include taking care of the following measures.

For Individuals.

  1. Individuals should use antimicrobials when prescribed by a qualified medical professional.
  2. Do not demand for antimicrobials if your physician says you do not need them
  3. Always adhere to the instruction of the physician on the use of antimicrobials
  4. Do not share or use leftover antimicrobials and always complete your recommended dosage of antibiotic prescription even when you feel well and healthy
  5. Prevent infections by regularly ensuring clean and hygienic body and environment which includes, washing of hands, preparing food hygienically, practicing safer sex and comply with vaccination schedule.

For Veterinarians and animal care-givers

  1. Antimicrobials should be given to animal patients under veterinary supervision only.
  2. The use of antibiotics and certain probiotics as growth promoters and for prevention of diseases should be drastically limited.
  3. Animals should be duly vaccinated at the recommended times to prevent diseases in livestock of livestock.
  4. The veterinarian should promote and apply best practices at all steps of production and processing of foods from animal and plant sources.
  5. Veterinarians should ensure and improve the biosecurity on farms and prevent infections through improved animal welfare.

In addition, government as the policy makers obviously have key roles to play with regards to how we can put an end to antimicrobial resistance in other to save the future. These include –

  1. Adopting a robust national action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance
  2. Improving surveillance on antimicrobial resistant infections.
  3. Strengthening policies, programs and implementation of the prevention of infection and the control measures.
  4. Regulating and promoting the appropriate use and disposal of quality medicines.
  5. Providing and promoting widespread information on the impact of antimicrobial resistance.

Are you or your animal resistant to Antibiotics?

Have you ever used an antibiotic drug for some infection and it worked perfectly…. Then you used the same drug for the same or another infection at a later time, and realized that the drug didn’t work as before? Or has that same thing happened to your pet, your poultry or cattle?

Watch it! You or your animal(s) may be having Antibiotic resistance!

Antibiotic resistance is when humans and animals become resistance over time to antibiotics that they normally use for common infections. This means that an antibiotic that used to work perfectly for your bacterial infections have stopped being as effective as before. Antibiotic resistance makes simple infections that should resolve easily more difficult to treat, thereby making the drugs useless and ineffective for your body system. Antibiotic resistance has become a big public health issue in both humans and animals worldwide. All over the world, various diseases such as gonorrheoa, tuberculosis, Staphylococcus, and enterococci are now resistant to antibiotics that used to bring cure for them, making such diseases increasingly difficult to treat. Also, a person or an animal who is experiencing antibiotic resistance would have issues treating wounds from trauma, accidents and surgeries especially in case where infections occur on such wounds. In animals, especially with pets dogs, poultry farms, cattle, sheep and goats, antibiotics are routinely and indiscriminately used for various purposes. While some of the antibiotics used in animals are not currently used to treat human disease, many of them like tetracyclines, penicillins, and sulfonamides, are also used in the treatment of infections in humans.

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Causes of antibiotic resistance

  1. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics

It is common for people to use antibiotics inappropriately for themselves and for their animals – especially without proper prescription from their medical and veterinary doctors. Even more importantly is the fact that a lot of people do not complete their full dose of antibiotic once they start feeling well. Also, due to lack of proper diagnosis, a lot of people use the wrong antibiotics for the wrong infections without knowing that some infections are only treatable by some specific antibiotics. These indiscriminate use invariably leads to build-up of antibiotic resistance.

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  1. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animals

In most food-animal farms e.g., poultry, cattle, sheep and goats, antibiotics are routinely used to prevent disease outbreaks, to treat disease outbreak and also to enhance the rapid growth of animals. The problem remains the inappropriate uses of these antibiotics even when they are not necessary. This promotes build-up of antibiotic resistance in these animals which can be transferred to human beings when we eat these animals. The threat to human health resulting from inappropriate antibiotic use in food animals is significant, as the resistant bacterial organisms in these livestock are widely disseminated in food products that we eat. As a standard procedure, food animals should go through a ‘waiting period’ before being sold to the population as food . However, these waiting periods are hardly adhered to by the producers and farmers here in Nigeria leading to the transmission and spread of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics directly affect humans when they come in contact or ingest with antibiotic-resistant bacteria from food animals, or when they ingest antibiotic residues from food animals. Antibiotics indirectly affect humans when they come in contact with resistant organisms that have been spread to various components of the ecosystem (e.g., water and soil) as a result of antibiotic use in food animals.

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How do we reduce the effects of antibiotics in our bodies and in our animals?

  1. Use antibiotic cautiously and only when necessary. The only way to know when to really use antibiotics is to get proper diagnosis and get a prescription from your medical doctor (for humans) and veterinary doctor (for animals). A proper diagnosis and prescription is also best for you so that you can use the right antibiotic that is most effective for your infection.
  2. Do not use antibiotics to treat viral infections, such as influenza, the common cold, a runny nose or a sore throat. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections so they would not work for the viral infections
  3. When you are given antibiotics by your doctor or veterinary doctor (for your animals), ensure you take the full prescription even if you are feeling better. Ensure that members of your family do the same and make sure you present your animals so the vet finishes the antibiotic dose.
  4. Never share antibiotics with others and don’t use leftover prescriptions
  5. Always remember that each time you take an antibiotic when it is not necessary, the effectiveness of the antibiotic decreases and it might not work the next time you really need it.

How do we manage antibiotic resistance in animals?

  1. Ensure you maintain good health, biosecurity and good management of your pet, herd or poultry.
  2. Make sure you have effective and strict programs in place for disease control and maintain good sanitation
  3. Ensure that vaccination of your pet, herd or poultry is up to date.


References; CDC, NIAID, WHO, McEwen and Ferdoka-Cray (2002)