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Thai livestock and its journey to be responsible antimicrobials users.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) might be a term that you rarely heard of, but it poses an unthinkable threat to your life.

Most of us may be familiar to antibiotic resistance which occurs when bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, causing the drugs to be less effective while antimicrobial resistance is a bigger picture as it includes the resistance of virus, bacteria and other microorganisms.

The resistance, caused by misuse of antimicrobials in both humans and animals, may lead to the end of modern medicine era. If nothing will be changed, the antimicrobials that we use today will be obsolete and less will be therapeutically effective that may later result to minor bacterial infections leading to fatalities. Globally, it kills approximately 700,000 people a year. Many international organizations share the same view that the amount of deaths can go up to 10 million, costing 100 trillion USD annually by 2050. 

The growing number of antimicrobial resistance incidents has become a hot topic by health professionals including veterinarians all over the world.

“Situation on AMR is called as a Snowball Effect which is getting bigger and bigger unless we do something now.” noted by Dr. Jaana Husu-Kallio, Permanent Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland. 

Dr. Husu-Kallio was on her visit to Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF)’s swine farm with 40 specialists who attended Prince Mahidol Awards Conference 2018 in Bangkok.

During the visit, she was impressed by Thai animal welfare system and CPF’s attitude toward decreasing antibiotics usage such as banning of antibiotic growth promoters and Colistin. 

She also praised the company’s pilot program to use group pen gestation system in swine farms.

In Thailand, Ministry of Public Health reported that 38,000 people die from antimicrobial resistance annually and also cost the country billions of dollar per year. Thai government recognized the importance of this issue. As a consequence, Thai National Strategic Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (2017–2021) has been set up by Thai Working Group on Health Policy and Systems Research on Antimicrobial Resistance -- a network formed by multisectorial researchers to reduce the resistance by half and drop antimicrobial use in humans and animals by 20% and 30% respectively. 

The strategic plan is initiated based on “One Heath” approach which recognizes that the health of humans, animals and the environment are related to each other and cannot be discussed separately anymore.

Livestock industry has put a lot of effort to ensure responsible use of antimicrobials in animals raised for consumption. The Department of Livestock Development works together with related parties including Veterinary Council of Thailand and private sectors to set up plans and policies that match up with international standards such as ban of antimicrobial growth promoters used in poultry which has been in effect since 2006.

The department initiated Livestock OK -- a standard that trace meat quality throughout production chain to assure that only fresh, hygienic and contamination-free meats will be delivered to consumers.

Mr. Boonkwan Wongyunoi, representative of Thai Poultry Veterinary Association, said that since the government banned antibiotic growth promoter in animal feed, livestock products have been closely monitored by the Department (DLD) in an attempt to reach the global standard.  

“Thai poultry business, as one of the world leading exporters, and other top livestock producers have been working hard to reduce antimicrobial use and make sure that their approaches on use of the agent are aligned with the law and international practices.” He pointed.

Dr. Damnoen Chaturavittawong (D.V.M), Senior Vice President of Swine Veterinary Service Department at CPF, said the company has been spearheading food safety improvement in Thailand. It has initiated the program to minimize antimicrobial use in the farm animals since 2000.

“Antimicrobials that are used for animals only are CPF’s top priorities for animal treatment while shared – class antimicrobials will be used only under strict veterinary supervision to avoid antimicrobial resistance in human. Additionally, the company bans the use of antibiotic growth promoter and Colistin, in its farm.” Dr. Damnoen added.

In response to global concerns on antimicrobial resistance, it has announced “Global Vision for Antimicrobials Use Stewardship in Food Animals” -- a responsible use practices, implemented by all of CPF units in Thailand and the rest of the world since last year.

Beside of the policy, good animal welfare practices are implemented in all of the company’s farms as a means to keep animals healthy and prevent diseases that will further minimize the need for antimicrobial use.

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