With proper use, antibiotic medications have numerous benefits.

They can help keep animals healthy, control the spread of disease, help them gain weight and prevent diseases that could spread to humans.

Recent concerns that the over-use or misuse of antibiotics could lead to an increase in antibiotic resistance have prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implement a new strategy that will impact Kentucky livestock producers.

“The FDA’s new strategy aims to encourage the judicious use of antibiotics in food-producing animals,” said Michelle Arnold, Extension veterinarian for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Judicious use means using a drug appropriately and only when necessary.”

Arnold said that misuse and over-use of antimicrobial drugs allows resistant bacteria, the hard-to-kill “bad bugs,” to increase in numbers faster than susceptible bacteria, the easy-to-kill bugs, and can transfer through the food chain to humans.

“This increases the opportunity for people to become infected by resistant (bad bug) bacteria,” she said. “The FDA’s goal is to protect public health, slow the development of drug resistance and help reduce the number of infections in humans that are difficult to treat.”

The FDA has identified certain antibiotics that will require veterinary oversight. They are also going to help drug companies voluntarily change product labels to remove feed efficiency and growth promotion claims and rather emphasize disease prevention, control and treatment.

They also provided information for companies on how to change their marketing materials to include veterinary oversight or supervision. Another area the FDA will focus on is simplifying the process to obtain a Veterinary Feed Directive drug — those intended for use in animal feed which are under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.