Back to basics: ViParc community advisory boards take stock of why farmers use antibiotics the way they do
Ho Chi Minh City, 18 October 2017 – Two Community Advisory Boards (CABs) for the farm-based trial ViParc convened on 11 October in the Vietnamese province of Dong Thap, unearthing the “why” of antibiotic use among livestock farmers.
The meetings took place in Cao Lanh and Thap Muoi districts, with 10 and 12 CAB members respectively. It was the second time that they had met to give advice and feedback on ViParc, an intervention study aiming to help Mekong Delta farmers raise healthy chickens with lesser amounts of antibiotics.
While combatting antibiotic resistance has recently gained traction in Vietnam following technical and legislative efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the CAB members went back to some of the most basic, oftentimes overlooked, questions within this discourse. “What is an antibiotic? How do I know if a poultry medicine contains antimicrobial agents?” – asked Nguyen Van Thuan, who serves on the CAB in Cao Lanh district.
Bach Tuan Kiet of the Dong Thap Sub-Department of Livestock Production and Animal Health acknowledged that the market of veterinary antibiotics in Vietnam is complex, with many companies having poor or confusing labels. “There’re a few tips though,” Mr. Kiet said, giving the example that if the label of a drug says it is for disease prevention and treatment, chances are it will contain antimicrobial agents. “Vaccines, without exception, will have labels saying they’re for disease prevention only,” he added.
Also addressing the confusion over antibiotics and other drugs, Pham Van Viet from the Thap Muoi CAB said, “I used to try all kinds of medicine when my chickens had Gumboro disease.” After raising over a dozen flocks, Mr. Viet realized that Gumboro is caused by a virus and cannot be cured by antibiotics, which work on bacterial diseases only. “If a flock’s infected with Gumboro, using antibiotics may even make the situation worse,” Mr. Viet reflected on his hard-learned lesson, because the antibiotics would then alter the normal flora of chickens.
Both CABs further dissected why there is an overuse of antibiotics among Vietnamese livestock farmers. Although the participants differed over which reason is more important, they all listed disease prevention and treatment as among the top factors.
This discussion played out amidst Vietnam’s National Action Plan, issued in June, that aims to reduce and phase out the use of veterinary antibiotics for disease prevention over the 2017-2020 period.
Truong Dinh Bao, a ViParc researcher, said insights shared by the CAB members would inform his socio-economic studies a great deal. Dr. Bao planned to conduct group and individual interviews in Dong Thap province, starting in November this year, to better understand different stakeholders’ views on antibiotic use in animal husbandry.
The CABs were set up in June 2017 to ensure frequent communications between scientists and the wider communities where the ViParc research takes place. Their memberships are diverse, with people coming from such backgrounds as veterinary medicine, livestock production, healthcare, and local media.