Friday, 05 May 2017 08:55

Antibiotic advertising comes under scrutiny

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Otago University microbiologist professor Gregory Cook. Otago University microbiologist professor Gregory Cook.

Restrictions on advertising of antibiotics will not necessarily lead to a reduction in usage, claim academics.

University of Otago microbiologist professor Gregory Cook says the advertisements currently appear in magazines read by vets and health professionals.

“Personally I don’t feel this is an issue and I doubt there is a link between advertisements and usage/antimicrobial resistance,” he told Rural News.

University of Otago research fellow Adam Heikal, now working at the University of Oslo, says the key is education on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and to ensure correct use of them when they are required.

“As long as the advertising is responsible and there is a clear message that antibiotics should be used carefully and only when really needed, rather than, say, as a quick fix or substitute for good practice, then adverts in themselves aren’t a problem. Prevention is better than a cure – an oldie but a goodie.”

MPI’s Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) group is looking at the prudent use of antibiotics. Last month it sought feedback from vets on the issue of advertising antibiotics.

ACVM says since 2007, advertising of restricted veterinary medicines (including antibiotics) has been allowed in New Zealand.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidance recommends that antimicrobials should only be advertised to people who are authorised to prescribe them and shouldn’t be advertised to food animal producers.

Mastitis management expert Steve Cranefield echoes the view that prevention is better than cure. He believes the dairy industry’s attitude towards antibiotics is being challenged. He says farmers will have to focus on prevention of diseases, such as mastitis, rather than treatment.

Speaking at a Smaller Milk and Supply Herds (SMASH) seminar in Clevedon recently, Cranefield also warned that the industry will need to change targets to include rational use of antibiotics.

According to Cranefield, technical manager of AgriHealth, NZ dairy farms should be aiming to achieve:

• An average season bulk milk somatic cell count (BMSCC) under 100,000 cells/ml

• Less than 10% of the herd treated for mastitis, and

• Less than 10 - 20% of cows treated with antibiotic dry cow therapy.

“There will now be both an economic and a moral cost if these targets are not achieved,” he says.

The ultimate aim of mastitis control is to limit the number of bacteria on a cow’s teats and to reduce the risk of bacteria entering the udder through the teat canal.

Cranefield says although this sounds simple, mastitis is the end result of complex interactions between cow, bacteria, environment, milking machine and farmer.

“The relative importance of these factors varies from farm to farm so it is important that your plan is specific to your farm.”


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