Resistant animal bacteria can be transferred to humans

Anti microbial resistance briefing in Lilongwe

Bacterium found in animals is the same one which causes infections in people and if it’s resistant in animals, it means that if it’s consumed through meat products, the animal resistant gene is also transferred to humans.

According to Dr. Peter Mwale a veterinarian at central veterinary laboratory, this then makes it difficult for treatment of infections in people because the same resistance in animals also translates to resistance in people.

He explained that the overuse of antibiotics which treat the bacteria is a problem in the animal health sector, therefore called on the need to make sure there’s no overuse or misuse of these drugs.

“We have to treat animals whenever we have proper diagnosis of which bacteria we’re dealing with and which antibiotics we’re going to use. With that, it will help us to reduce this risk of this resistant genes or resistant bacteria that is transferred to people."  

Dr. Mwale said that just as is the practice in humans, some farmers don’t get any veterinary advice but just treat their animals without consulting vet services.

Such people will just go to a vet shop without any anti-biotic prescription which he faulted as it only increases the burden.

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Mwale: It will help us to reduce this risk of this resistant genes that is transferred to people

“So we have to make sure that the farmers should consult the veterinary department or officers in their respective areas on which antibiotic or which treatment they are going to follow in treating their animals”

Dr. Ronald Chitatanga from the Anti-microbial resistance National Coordinating Unit at the Public health institute of Malawi (PHIM) has handled patients with conditions of drug resistant infections.

He narrated that when there is a patient with an infection that is not responding to an antibiotic designed for it, medical practitioners are usually left with a scenario where they can’t treat the person.

During his practice at Kamuzu Central hospital, sometimes they receive patients who are diagnosed with a disease they are sure of it’s a cause and an organism responsive to causing a disease in a person.

”In our practice, we often find out that for example this antibiotic will work for this bacteria and so we give the specific antibiotic to treat the condition. Now my experience in Kamuzu central hospital about two years ago, and this happened more than once of course. We had a patient who had a bloodstream infection and this is somebody who unfortunately had an infection which was not responsive to any of the antibiotics we had as a hospital.

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Chitatanga: We need to give anti-biotics only after a prescription has been made

“Unfortunately in this situation, the only thing that we could offer for this patient was painkillers the usual Panados that we had and some other things that we also did experience at the time. So we just supported them with nutritional support, fluids but to give antibiotics that were tailored to this sort of infection; was a bit difficult and days were passing but unfortunately sometimes patients opt to go home because there is no infection”.

Doctors normally give first then second line antibiotics with the final ones kept for infections that are difficult to treat

“In Malawi some animals are given antibiotics that we have reserved for the last resort which means if you get an infection from an animal that is resistant to that last resort antibiotic, what will happen is we may not be able to treat you because that last line antibiotic is not going to work in a human in that infection

”This antibiotic is known as Colistin; we have reserved it and a lot of other global international organizations such as WHO have reserved it as last resort antibiotic.  We see that for chickens it’s been given in their feed to enhance chicken growth so it is put in with food so that the chickens grow faster and sort of prevent other infections as well in the chickens.

“If the chicken has an infection that is not treatable with that antibiotic and you come to hospital with that infection, and we need to use that antibiotic it will be very difficult for us to treat this patient. So the whole essence of this week is just to ensure that we understand that we need to give anti-bio tics only after a prescription has been made”

An antibiotic awareness week campaign is currently running from 18-24 November to raise awareness on antibiotic resistance