In Summary
  • Low level antibiotics use makes Bacteria develop resistance.
  • The best way of ensuring humans are not exposed to dietary intake of antibiotics is to avoid contamination of foods of animal origin with antibiotics used in the treatment of diseases.
  • Most disease-causing bacteria found in animals are also found in humans due to the close relationship between domestic animals and man.
  • Farmers must ensure that they observe withdrawal periods of drugs, use antibiotics only as directed by certified animal health service providers, vaccinate their animals against diseases and keep high levels of hygiene to prevent diseases.

Today I will engage livestock farmers on the important topic of animal protection and human health.

In particular, this is all about antibiotic use and the grave danger that inappropriate use of life-saving chemicals poses to human beings and animals.

Antibiotics are chemicals that are used to treat diseases by killing harmful bacteria in the bodies of humans and animals.

The chemicals comprise the widest range of drugs used in treating human and animal diseases.

Scientifically, antibiotics are drugs derived from living organisms while antimicrobials are synthetic forms of antibiotics.

For the purposes of our discussion today, I shall use the term antibiotics to refer to all drugs used in the treatment of diseases caused by bacteria in people and animals.

Before I move on, next week from 13 to 19 is the World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

The global community, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO), will use the period to raise awareness on proper use of the drugs.

In Kenya, activities will be led by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and WHO, among others.

Now, I will share three encounters that have put me at loggerheads with farmers on the use of antibiotics.

In the first, Kimani’s finisher pigs got an attack of swine pox, a usually mild viral disease that may heal without treatment.

Unfortunately, the pox wounds got bacterial infection due to flies feeding on them and there were only two options.

I either had to inject the pigs with tetracycline antibiotic or leave them to heal on their own for up to three weeks.

If I used tetracycline, then Kimani would have had to withdraw the pigs from slaughter for 15 days.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Some of the pigs were ready for slaughter and Kimani did not wish to keep them longer and incur feeding costs.

If I had left the pigs to heal on their own, they would have lost weight and take longer for Kimani to sell, hence reducing projected profit.

I settled on tetracycline use but Kimani was thoroughly unhappy with me. He said I should just have left him to decide what to do with his pigs.

Next is Purity. She had to discard 20 litres of milk per day for seven days because I treated her cow for mastitis with the antibiotic cephalexin.

You see, the milk had to be withheld from human consumption for three days of treatment and another four days from the time treatment was completed to ensure that the antibiotics in the milk were below the minimum level allowed.

Purity was not amused with me at all. She insisted the first three days withdrawal was sufficient.

Finally, in Ema’s case where I treated her 1,500 layers with tetracycline and she had to discard eggs for three days to avoid feeding people with the drug. I did not like the way she looked at me as she grudgingly agreed to withhold the eggs.

I empathised with the farmers but there is overwhelming scientific evidence that failure to observe proper antibiotic use results in bacteria developing resistance.

In addition, ingestion of small quantities of some antibiotics causes development of allergies in people.

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