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Reducing antimicrobial resistance
  1. Benjamin Nolan, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM)
  1. Aspen Meadow Veterinary Specialists, 3640 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO 80301 USA
  1. E-mail: benjnolan{at}

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THE proper use of antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic resistance have received much attention in recent years. At one point or another, all practitioners have experienced difficulty treating a patient infected with a multidrug resistant (MDR) organism and this problem is likely to become more prevalent in the future. Although all types of infectious agents can develop resistance, bacterial populations are the most problematic. To help put the issue in perspective one can consider the timeframe for the so-called ‘antibiotic age’, or the period during which antibiotics have been used extensively to treat infectious disease. Although the existence of these molecules likely predates modern man, the beginning of the antibiotic age can be traced to roughly 1928, when Alexander Fleming identified and recognised the antimicrobial actions of penicillin. Less than a century has elapsed since that time, which is a small fraction of the overall period of human existence. The fact that we are already faced with significant antibiotic resistance is sobering for the future of our ability to treat infectious disease.

As veterinarians, our first responsibility is to our patients and naturally we want to cure harmful infections. However, we must not lose sight of the important role our profession plays in public health. The evolution of antibiotic resistance will not only complicate treatment of our animal patients, but many of the emerging MDR organisms may also pose a threat to people. This has been recognised for some time in food animals due to the widespread use of antibiotics for prophylaxis and as growth promoters. There are many socioeconomic and public health controversies that surround this issue, but the …

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