The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has begun a new collaborative effort to study antimicrobial use and resistance on commercial swine farms in the Midwest.

Each year in the United States, at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi. More than 35,000 people die as a result.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow and reproduce.

Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult and sometimes impossible, to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives, CDC adds. Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.

The APHIS project will focus on use and resistance related to animal health and production-related indicators. APHIS is partnering with several animal health and industry organizations on this study. This collaboration could serve as a model for future studies to monitor antimicrobial use and resistance in animals, especially those meant for human consumption.

The farms taking part in the study are clients of Pipestone Veterinary Services. As a service to their clients, Pipestone began collecting data on antimicrobial use several years ago. The company recently started sampling for antimicrobial resistance in selected pig and food safety-related pathogens.

The Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University perform analysis and contribute expertise in bacterial isolation and antimicrobial susceptibility testing for the project. Working with their clients’ approval, Pipestone will share their collected anonymized data with APHIS’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) for more analysis and interpretation in the context of factors related to management and disease pressure. APHIS aims to provide the initial results from its analysis sometime in 2022.

The collaborative effort is the first of its kind, with funding from public, private, and industry sources. Funding is being provided in part through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture and the National Pork Board, in addition to APHIS and Pipestone.

This project will supplement the work VS is already doing on antimicrobial use and resistance, an important One Health topic. One Health – the interconnectedness of animal, human and environmental health – is of growing importance and awareness. APHIS continues to coordinate with partners at international, national, and state levels to address this and other One Health topics.

APHIS initiated NAHMS in 1983 to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on animal health, management and productivity across the United States. NAHMS conduct studies that provide essential information on livestock and poultry health and management to decision-makers, including producers, researchers, and policymakers.

Data generated from NAHMS studies are used to provide up-to-date and trend information needed to monitor animal health, support trade decisions, assess research and product development needs, answer questions for consumers, and set policy. With the voluntary support of producers in a diversity of sectors, NAHMS has been collecting data about antimicrobial use, stewardship, and resistance for many years.

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