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Stewardship of Antibiotics Begins with Improved Biosecurity

Tom Marsteller, DVM — Technical Service Manager (Swine), Kemin Industries

What is the stewardship of antibiotics programs on your farm? Google "stewardship of antibiotics" and you might be surprised to find most of the web-based information is related to human health care. Effective September 2014, Presidential Executive Order 13676 directed the secretary of Health and Human Services to establish the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (PACCARB), in consultation with the secretaries of Defense and Agriculture, on methods to combat antimicrobial resistant bacteria.2 PACCARB will communicate new methods to prevent bacterial infection through metrics, tracking, hygiene and biosecurity for both human and animal health. One method health care providers are striving for is to prevent health care associated infections.3 PACCARB has documented that preventative measures (biosecurity) are key in health care facilities to keep antimicrobial resistance in check. 

The animal health industry has now fully implemented FDA Guidance Documents 152, 209 and 213 rules and regulations, effective January 2017.4 These regulations prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, but still allow their use as therapeutics in the animal food industry. The medically important antibiotics are not to be administered to animals through feed or water without veterinary oversight. It took many years for these voluntary rules and regulations to be fully implemented, with the desired effect of decreasing the burden of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in livestock that could potentially spread to humans. The consumer trusts the producer and veterinarian to apply antibiotics responsibly: proper dose, length of use and withdrawal period followed.5 It behooves the industry not to lose this consumer trust and follow the new January 2017 guidelines. 

Just as significant as the new antibiotic use rules, changes are ongoing within the animal industry to prevent diseases from ever occurring. Eliminating worrisome diseases in livestock has led to a decreased need for antibiotic use for prevention, control or treatment of animal diseases. Many producers and veterinarians in the swine industry have taken steps toward improving antibiotic stewardship on farms by eliminating PRRSV and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae in production groups of animals.6,7,8 Preventing vertical spread of these two diseases from the sow to offspring is accomplished by selecting breeding stock that is negative to these two diseases and/or proper herd closures and treatment of mycoplasma infected sows.9 After the sow herd is negative, the offspring can be grown until market, and the need for antibiotic use to control these two respiratory diseases is decreased significantly. Preventing the spread of these two pathogens by horizontal transmission could not have been accomplished without a significant investment in world class biosecurity. Those investments include: routine diagnostic monitoring, single source pig flow, increased biosecurity at all facilities, closure of breeding herds including multiplication, monitoring boar health, installing incoming air filters in sow and boar housing, heated truck washes, all-in all-out production, three-site system design and proper location of facilities to prevent internal and area spread of pathogens.10 Why were these decisions made to manage health in a dramatically different manner today versus the past? Consumers, retailers, non-government organizations, processors and packers continue to encourage the animal production industry to change their behavior on antibiotic use.11 While animal well-being and disease treatment are still paramount for a safe food supply, consumer pressure will continue to encourage livestock producers to decrease their practice of routine antibiotic use. Prevention of diseases and top-notch biosecurity is the cornerstone to decreased antibiotic use in the livestock industry. 

With the introduction of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) to the U.S. swine industry in 2013, producers and their health management teams have taken a high interest in how this virus is transmitted. It is now known that PEDV can survive in feed and contaminated feed can create PEDV in naïve pigs.12 The swine industry is now aware of the importance of biosecurity at the feed mill with respect to PEDV.13,14 We can't let our biosecurity guard down in any part of the animal production facilities with respect to disease prevention.     

Societal demands to improve the health and well-being of animals will continue to increase in the future. Managing the health of livestock requires increased diligence in biosecurity and the prevention of vertical and horizontal spread of diseases. Animal health professionals will need to be vigilant using disease diagnostics and employing all the tools at their disposal to rear animals in an environment which allows them to perform at their full genetic potential. Realistically, it continues to be a very competitive marketplace for food production. Whoever can meet the demands of the customer with the optimal cost of production will see their business grow.         



1Biosecurity definition: Procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents. Accessed on March 1, 2017.
2 Accessed on March 1, 2017.
3PACCARB Meeting Summary, Fifth Public Meeting PACCARB, Department of Health and Human Services, January 25, 2017.
4 Accessed on March 1, 2017.
5 Accessed on March 1, 2017.
6Schwartz M. The cost of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae in growing pigs. Allen D. Leman Conference 2015.
7Dee S. PRRS Eradication: Why does it fail? ISU Swine Disease Conference for Veterinarians 2002, pgs 63-70.
8Donovan T. PRRS Control and eradication in a production system. Allen D. Leman Conference 2011, pgs 151-156.
9Holst S, Yeske P, Pieters M. Elimination of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae from breed-to-wean farms: A review of current protocols with emphasis on herd closure and medication. J Swine Health Prod., 2015; 23(6)321-330.
10Desrosiers R. Emerging diseases: The past and future; AASV Proceedings 2015, pgs 519-538.
11NRDC. A Case Study. Going mainstream: Raising meat and poultry without routine antibiotics use. December 2015, CS:13-03-C.
12Dee S, et al. An evaluation of contaminated complete feed as a vehicle for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus infection of naïve pigs following consumption via natural feeding behaviors: proof of concept. BMC Vet Res. 2014; 10:176. Doi:10.1186/s12917-04-01769-9.
13Cochrane RA, et al. Feed mill biosecurity plans: A systematic approach to prevent biological pathogens in swine feed. J. Swine Health Prod., 2016; 24(3)154-164.
14Greiner LL. Evaluation of the likelihood of detection of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or porcine delta coronavirus ribonucleic acid in areas within feed mills. J. Swine Health Prod., 2016; 24(4)198-204.

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