The development of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is a critical issue for human health, with 23,000 people dying each year from an AMR (antimicrobial resistance) infection. A new program developed by Pipestone is focused gathering critical data about antibiotic resistance and responsible antibiotic use, as well as engaging pig producers, regulators and opinion leaders and consumers in this critically important topic.
In a February webinar, Dr. Joel Nerem, Pipestone Veterinary Services Veterinarian, and Dr. Scott Dee, Pipestone Director of Research, shared an overview of the antibiotic resistance issue and the new Pipestone Antibiotic Resistance Tracker (PART) program.
This heightened concern could have a significant impact on U.S. livestock production. In Europe, politicians and regulators enacted strict policies to reduce and report antibiotic use. The strong focus on reduction, and not animal welfare or responsible use, created a number of challenges for both producers and veterinarians.
These trends turn into marketing strategies for retailers, such as “no antibiotics ever” or “antibiotic free.” When the public is concerned about an issue, that triggers concern with retailers, fast food chains, and regulators, said Dr. Nerem, noting a recent “Chain Reaction” report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group that ranks restaurant chains for their policies on antibiotic use from their meat suppliers.
One Key Question
In 2016, Pipestone hosted a group of leaders from McDonald’s restaurants to tour farms and talk about pork production practices. One question they asked — “Do you track your antibiotic use?” — triggered action by the Pipestone team.
“We took the question to heart,” Dr. Nerem said. “We believe we can’t demonstrate responsible antibiotic use until we understand how much antibiotics are used and in what situations.”
Pipestone began a project that resulted in the development of the PART program that launched with pig producers in January 2017. The program includes three key elements: Record, Review and Respond.
“We recognize the significant issue that antibiotics resistance represents to both human and animal health,” said Dr. Nerem. “Our focus is responsible use and understanding antibiotic resistance.”
PART provides an online tool that compiles their antibiotic use information for both feed, water soluble, and injectable medications.
To date, there are more than 180 subscribers to the PART program representing about 3.2 million pigs. The website that allows a producer to log in and monitor their use has had more than 12,000 page views to date.
Gathering Research and Broadening the Conversation
The program provides valuable information and support to pig producers and is gathering important research data that has never been gathered before, according to Dr. Nerem.
“Resistance tracking has been limited to the CDC for public cases of foodborne illnesses and the FDA tracking issues in the meat case back to the processor,” said Dr. Dee. “There is minimal research on the farm level and we see that as a niche that needs to be filled.”
The PART program is using the same metrics that the National Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring Service (NARMS) is using for human resistance.
In addition, the www.PipestonePART.com website includes informational resources for consumers, media and policymakers. Blog posts written by Dr. Dee and Dr. Odland answer popular questions and address some of the most misleading headlines about production agriculture.
“I’m proud of our team and proud to work with pig producers who recognize that this is a serious issue,” said Dr. Nerem. “The interest in PART is a testament to the people we work with that they care about public health and our industry.”
Dr. Dee shared how the PART team is also engaging with those already working on the subject at local, state and national levels. This includes participation in the National Antibiotic Resistance Service annual meeting in Washington DC, the ONE Health Initiative in Minnesota, and many more interactions with veterinarians, medical doctors, researchers, and farmers.
Future webinars will share more information about the program as well as results from the gathered data. Click here to watch the webinar.