Fit to trade bulletin

Antimicrobial resistance study underway in WA cattle

Staff involved in antimicrobial study on WA cattle
DPIRD technical officer Mengqi Chen (left), Curtin University student Shannon O’Donnell, DPIRD veterinary officer Faheem Noor, DPIRD senior microbiologist Nicky Buller and DPIRD research officer Sam Hair.

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is mid-way through a surveillance study to gather data on the level of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in WA cattle. AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites stop antimicrobials such as antibiotics from working.

Department senior microbiologist Dr Nicky Buller is leading the study, which involves culturing bacteria present in faecal samples and then determining if they are resistant to a broad range of antibiotics used in human and animal medicine.

“Australia has one of the world's lowest levels of antibiotic use in agriculture, which is a result of our extensive farming systems, excellent animal health status, and strong regulatory systems which control antibiotic use,” Dr Buller said.

Although use of antibiotics is considered conservative in Australian food-producing animals, very little data has been collected to establish the prevalence of AMR, and there is no ongoing surveillance for AMR. The few studies that have been done indicate very low levels of AMR.

“If we can undertake research to demonstrate very low levels of AMR in our livestock then there are potential market opportunities for Australia to take advantage of.

“With growing consumer awareness of food, where it comes from and chemicals used in its production, Australia could utilise its low AMR status to build on its excellent reputation as a producer of safe, premium food that is recognised globally and which enables access to high-value markets,” Dr Buller said.

A number of the Department’s laboratory staff are involved in the study, with Curtin University students assisting during their seven-week work placement as part of their degree in Applied Science in Laboratory Medicine. 

The study will be completed later this year and the results published to support the WA cattle industry.

See our AMR webpage for more information.