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Diagnostics Help Pinpoint Disease Amid Antibiotic Use Concerns

21 March 2016

ANALYSIS - Antimicrobial use has garnered much attention lately, and an industry expert explains the critical role that diagnostics play in pinpointing disease challenges so the right health solution is administered.

Dr. Lisa Becton, DVM and Director of Swine Health information with the National Pork Board, speaks to Sarah Mikesell at the North American PRRS symposium in Chicago. 

"Diagnostics play a very critical role as we manage all of our antimicrobials, so what it starts with is the relationship between the veterinarian and the producer," said Dr. Lisa Becton, DVM and Director of Swine Health information with the National Pork Board.

When a producer has a problem, their veterinarian will typically come out and assess the situation, including taking the appropriate diagnostic samples to understand what the problem is.

"When you get that information back, it helps guide the veterinarian in giving the recommendations to the producer on how best to deal with this issue," she said.

Viral diseases like Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) are difficult because antimicrobials don't work on viruses.

"What happens with PRRS is, it compromises the pig's immune system, so then you know you're going to have other bacterial information that comes in. So it's really important to understand, not just one factor, but multiple factors when you do your diagnostics," she noted.

Dr. Becton said veterinarians use diagnostics in several ways. Sometimes freedom of a disease can be key information.

"We want to known with a health challenge what's there, but you also want to know what's not there. Same thing if you're shipping breeding stock to another company or if you have a customer that buys pigs from you and has a problem, you want to make sure that there is or is not something going on," she said. "Even if you get a negative result that's not a bad thing. It just depends on what situation you're running those diagnostics."

With antibiotic use under pressure, diagnostics can help veterinarians get more specific in their disease diagnosis.

"Unlike our human counterparts where human patients can tell their physicians what they're feeling, what they're doing, we don't have that luxury, so we have to be able to take appropriate samples of our patients, which are pigs, to really give us the full story," Dr. Becton said.

Clinically on-farm, veterinarians and producers can see symptoms and know what viruses or bacteria the pigs have been exposed to, but diagnostics are able to round out the clinical picture and provide a solution to deal with the health challenge.

To learn more at the Swine Diagnostic and Disease Resource Center, click here

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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