for our health, also be careful to take good care of our pets

for our health, also be careful to take good care of our pets
for our health, also be careful to take good care of our pets

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Around half of French people have a pet. Contacts between humans and their animals are often close and repeated. While certain infectious risks at the human/animal interface are well known, such as toxoplasmosis, transmitted by cats, the threat of antibiotic resistance rarely comes to mind. And yet…

Antibiotic resistance, a threat to public health

Resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, or antibiotic resistance, is today identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the major threats to the health of humanity.

In France alone, each year, around 4,500 people die due to an infection with multi-resistant bacteria, that is to say resistant to many antibiotics. Worldwide, nearly 1.3 million people died from such infections in 2019, more than deaths from malaria or HIV.

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The phenomenon of antibiotic resistance compromises the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments, harming human health as well as that of animals. This means in concrete terms that there is a high chance of dying from an infection caused by a bacteria that cannot be treated with available antibiotics, when this infection is serious.

In general, the duration of care is often longer when a bacterial infection is resistant to antibiotics, and it is sometimes necessary to be treated in hospital.

Furthermore, antibiotic resistance increases the risk of sequelae linked to the infection, because the infection then becomes more difficult, if not impossible, to treat.

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What is the relationship between pets and antibiotic resistance?

A single antibiotic dose is enough to select resistant bacteria in our microbiota, in the intestinal flora for example. Once a “carrier” of such a resistant strain, we do not necessarily notice it: we do not always fall ill, the bacteria(s) often simply live like the others in our body.

The problem is that bacteria, whether resistant or sensitive to antibiotics, circulate… They are constantly transmitted between human beings, animals (pets or livestock), and the environment (soil, water, surfaces). various…). You can therefore share antibiotic-resistant bacteria with your pet, and they can do the same with you.

Thus, some pig farmers found themselves carrying multi-antibiotic-resistant staphylococci, which were transmitted to them through contact with their animals. Conversely, human multidrug-resistant staphylococci have been transmitted from owners to their dogs.

The fact that antibiotic resistance can be transmitted between animals and humans has been confirmed by a recent report from European agencies.

In humans as in animals, antibiotics can be taken at home or during hospitalization. Resistant bacteria can then circulate between members of the household (humans or animals), or within the hospital or veterinary clinic, or even during various contacts after leaving hospital.

Who uses the most antibiotics? Humans or animals?

In France, contrary to popular belief that still circulates, animals – pets or farms – consume fewer antibiotics than humans. This has not always been the case: this situation is the result of significant efforts made over more than 20 years in veterinary medicine, particularly within the framework of the Ecoantibio 1 and 2 ministerial programs and European regulations.

Human consumption of antibiotics has also declined in France, although less markedly than in animals.

https://www.anses.fr/fr/system/files/ANMV-Ra-Antibiotics2022.pdf

However, it should be noted that the sharp drop in antibiotic consumption in veterinary medicine in France mainly concerned farm animals. For pets, uses have remained generally constant. This is the reason why the Ecoantibio 3 ministerial program, launched in November 2023, requires a particular effort for dogs, cats and horses.

At the global level, however, things are a little different. The use of antibiotics in animals has certainly tended to decline overall in recent years, but many countries still use antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock. Since 2006, this practice has been prohibited in the countries of the European Union (EU), which extended this ban through Regulation 2019/6 which entered into force on January 28, 2022, article 118 of which requires that products imported into the EU come from animals that have not been treated with growth promoting antibiotics.

Practical advice to limit the risks of spread

A few simple actions, easily applied on a daily basis, can reduce the risk of infection and antibiotic resistance, in both humans and animals:

  • Check that its vaccinations and those of his animal are up to date; Avoid bites and scratches as much as possible, which can cause infections (which may require the use of antibiotics to treat). If you are nevertheless bitten or scratched by your animal, the good reflex is to immediately disinfect the wound, then seek the advice of a health professional; Make sure you have good hand hygiene (washing or rubbing) after touching an animal, animal food or animal waste. This is also about reducing the risk of infection and limiting the transmission of bacteria; Keep in mind that any antibiotic intake, in humans or animals, is a situation where there is a risk of selecting and then transmitting resistant bacteria to those around them; it is therefore appropriate to be particularly vigilant with hand hygiene during and after taking an antibiotic; Return remaining antibiotics to the pharmacy or veterinarian to avoid contaminating the environment; Do not self-medicate or share your antibiotics with your loved ones or your pet (and vice versa), because an antibiotic treatment is adapted to a specific case.

All these simple reflexes to apply on a daily basis can allow everyone to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, for themselves, for their loved ones and for their animals, in France and elsewhere, now and for future generations. Achieving this objective constitutes a real societal, political and health challenge, with which everyone must feel concerned.

Indeed, humans and animals alike, we will all possibly need, at some point in our lives, to resort to antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection which could have, if it cannot be treated optimally, serious consequences for our health.

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