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Improved diagnostics offers weapon to combat bacterial resistance

An Associate Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine says improved diagnostic methods have a role to play in combating bacterial resistance and lowering the cost of treating disease.

30 May 2019, at 1:40pm

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in collaboration with scientists in Europe, are working to standardise and improve methods for diagnosing Brachyspira-associated disease in swine.

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Joe Rubin, the Graduate Chair and an Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology with the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says when a veterinarian submits a sample to the lab for testing, the microbiologist might be able to culture a bacteria from that sample but additional characterisation is important to identify to which drugs the organism likely to be susceptible or resistant and provide therapeutic guidance.

"Antimicrobial resistance is I think recognised as a global and almost universal problem in infectious diseases, whether we're talking about pigs in an agricultural setting or people in a hospital or a companion animal that we might have living in our households," says Dr Rubin.

"One of the key first steps in reducing resistance and ensuring that we don't encourage bacteria to become more resistant is to minimise the use of drugs.

"Where improved diagnostics come in is in the role that they play in helping a veterinarian to select the most appropriate antimicrobial at the beginning of treatment so that they aren't using one drug to which maybe the organism is resistant, having treatment failure and having to switch to another drug."

Dr Rubin says it's all about giving veterinarians and prescribers the ability to use drugs as efficiently as possible and based on the best possible evidence.

He says this has not only benefits for resistance but also economic benefits for producers who are perhaps only having to pay for one prescription instead of multiple prescriptions.