Smart Antibiotic Use: Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance in Horses

Antimicrobial-resistant infections of all kinds continue to challenge veterinarians and compromise equine health. So, what are veterinarians doing to curb it, and what can you do to help?

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Smart Antibiotic Use
Antimicrobial resistance develops when antibiotics are used improperly. Because a finite number of these drugs exist, we all must do our part to ensure they remain effective into the future. | Photo: Adam Spradling/The Horse

Why is antimicrobial resistance such a big deal, and what can you do about it? 

None of us remembers living in a world without antimicrobial drugs. Yet, less than a century—a mere lifetime—ago, people and animals routinely died from conditions that today require no more than a tube of antibiotic ointment or a short course of antibiotics to cure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), simply using antibiotics creates resistance. How? Antibiotic resistance is a complicated process that scientists do not fully understand. But, simply put, in any population of microbes, some naturally resist the drugs used to control or kill them. Then, when an infection arises and antimicrobials are used to kill disease-causing microbes, the commensal (good) microbes that protect the body from infection also die. This leaves the drug-resistant microbes to proliferate unchecked. And, some bacteria pass their resistant genes to other bacteria, further spreading antibiotic resistance.

In humans the CDC estimates that 2,049,442 illnesses and 23,000 deaths occurred due to antibiotic resistance in 2017 alone and, of these, 250,000 illnesses (12%) and 14,000 deaths (61%) were due to the bacterium Clostridium difficile

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Written by:

Diane Rice earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Wisconsin, then married her education with her lifelong passion for horses by working in editorial positions at Appaloosa Journal for 12 years. She has also served on the American Horse Publications’ board of directors. She now freelances in writing, editing, and proofreading. She lives in Middleton, Idaho, and spends her spare time gardening, reading, serving in her church, and spending time with her daughters, their families, and a myriad of her own and other people’s pets.

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