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Resistant BRD blowing up in Plains cattle

Jeff Caldwell 07/26/2013 @ 9:29am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Efforts are underway in the cattle industry to find the source of and treatment for bacteria that cause a major cattle disease and are showing signs of resistance to common antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs.

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) has about a $1 billion impact on the U.S. cattle industry each year, and veterinary microbiologist at the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Brian Lubbers says there's been a definite shift in the drug-resistance trend.

"We have been seeing an increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause pneumonia (also called BRD) in cattle," Lubbers says. "Many of these bacteria are resistant to, not one, but almost all of the antibiotics that we use to treat pneumonia in cattle."

Many cases found during a three-year survey mostly comprising cases in Kansas and Nebraska were shown resistant to "several of the drugs typically used to treat the pathogen," but few have been found resistant to all antimicrobial drugs, according to a university report. In 2009, 42% of diagnosed cases were drug-resistant. By 2010, 46% of diagnosed cases were resistant to at least three of the six antibiotics used to treat BRD. The next year, that number grew to 63%.

Lubbers says at this point, active surveillance and research is underway to determine how BRD-causing bacteria are developing resistance in order to counteract the growing issue. But that will be a challenge moving forward.

"We consider this type of information to be part of our active ongoing disease surveillance and will continue this work," Lubbers says of the data showing the increased incidence of resistant BRD. "The questions of how these bacteria develop or where they come from, how widespread they are, and what the impact is on cattle production are still unanswered. We are actively seeking industry partners to investigate these questions."

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