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Teagasc researcher features on RTÉ’s 10 things to know about … superbugs

Teagasc researcher Dr Laura Boyle, Moorepark, is exploring ways to improve animal welfare and reduce antibiotic use on pig farms. Laura features with farmer Eugene Sheehan in Episode 3 of the TV programme 10 things to know about … Superbugs tonight on RTÉ One at 8.30pm. This episode looks at the alarming rise of superbugs.

Teagasc researcher features on RTÉ’s 10 things to know about … superbugs
On tonight’s episode on 10 things to know about… Superbugs are (from left): farmer Eugene Sheehan, Teagasc researcher Dr Laura Boyle and presenter Kathriona Devereaux.

Teagasc researcher features on RTÉ's 10 things to know about... superbugs

Teagasc researcher Dr Laura Boyle, Moorepark, is exploring ways to improve animal welfare and reduce antibiotic use on pig farms. Laura features with farmer Eugene Sheehan in Episode 3 of the TV programme 10 things to know about … Superbugs tonight on RTÉ One at 8.30pm. This episode looks at the alarming rise of superbugs.

It’s crucial that we reduce our use of antibiotics in healthcare, but agriculture continues to one of the major factors in the spread of antibiotic resistance. Many farmers add antibiotics to their animal feed to reduce the risk of disease, but is that really the best way to care for the animals? Presenter Kathriona Devereaux meets Teagasc researcher Laura Boyle who is exploring the link between poor welfare and antimicrobial usage on Irish pig farms and visits a pig farm that has dramatically reduced its use of antibiotics without it having any effect on the animals’ welfare.

Laura explains: “Stress associated with commercial production methods challenges pigs’ behavioural and immunological coping mechanisms placing them at risk of health problems. Hence, antibiotics are crucial to treating disease in modern production systems. However, inadequate management and housing practices exacerbate challenges to pig health such that there is an over reliance on antibiotics to control disease on some farms.  By optimising the way in which we manage and house pigs, we can improve their welfare and, in turn, their resistance to disease, thereby reducing antibiotic use”.

The rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is globally recognised as one of the greatest potential threats to human health. No new class of antibiotic has been found since 1987, and in February 2017, the UN’s World Health Organization released its first ever list of the World's Most Dangerous Superbugs, saying, “Within a generation, without new antibiotics, deaths from drug-resistant infection could reach 10 million a year. Without new medicines to treat deadly infection, lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and organ transplant, and routine operations like caesareans and hip replacements, will be potentially fatal.” Presenter Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin travels to Geneva to meet Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of Antimicrobial Resistance at the World Health Organization to find out more about the AMR threat, and what is being done to fight back. Referencing the incredible surgical advances we’ve made over the last few decades, Marc underscores the genuinely frightening concept that we could be on the brink of returning to the dark ages in terms of medicine and healthcare.

In Ireland, presenter Jonathan McCrea meets Professor Martin Cormican, NUIG microbiologist and HSE Health Care Associated Infection National Lead, to discuss some of the reasons for the emergence and spread of AMR, and what we here in Ireland could and should be doing about it. We also meet Margaret Dawson, who lost her husband Joe to MRSA last year and knows all too well, the dangers of a world without effective antibiotics.

Every day, antibiotics and resistant bacteria are being flushed into our wastewater systems but incredibly, treatment plants have no controls or regulations in place anywhere in the world for removing antibiotics and resistant bacteria from wastewater. Jonathan meets EPA researcher Fiona Walsh who discusses her role in a European project to better understand and quantify the issue of AMR in the environment. The first of its kind anywhere in the world, this project will quantify the spread of antibiotic resistance across Europe and offer solutions to remove them from our waste.

Researchers are searching the farthest reaches of the earth for new antibiotics… but in Weird Science, Fergus suggests that part of the solution could be literally, under our noses…

The promotional video for this episode can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/243884522