Read my letter to the editor of the Racing Pigeon Digest scheduled to be published on Feb. 15, 2017. This is a response to a widely circulating article claiming that acidification creates antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
I am writing to ask that you and your readers remain vigilant in your skepticism of claims made by authors who are submitting articles here.
In the Nov. 15, 2016 issue of the Racing Pigeon Digest, you published an article by Robert Swanepoel of South Africa on the subject of resistant bacteria. In it, he makes claims that acidification is the cause for biofilms created by bacteria, thereby creating a resistance to antibiotics.
However, he provides no evidence, only speculation. He even admits as much and that “no studies have taken place to support this article.” His entire article should have been dismissed and not published right then and there. (See image below)
On the contrary, countless legitimate and peer-reviewed research has been performed that shows acidification creates a positive influence on beneficial bacteria in the gut across many animals, including birds.
I was skeptical of his article when I read it because it goes against everything I have read and done and against what so many others have been doing for so many years with success. How many of us have used and continue to use apple cider vinegar or other acidifier for this reason? Imagine if we all did what Swanepoel is suggesting and quit using some version of an acidifier? The multi-billion dollar poultry industry wouldn't acidify if it wasn't beneficial.
I had a meeting with a top-level Alltech nutritionist a few weeks ago and showed her the article since Swanepoel specifically mentioned using one of their products. She agreed with my assessment that his claims are baseless and inaccurate in that regard. Yet people will read it and believe it because it has a byline and is published in a magazine.
What Swanepoel did with that article is dangerous for our birds. He used the word "probable" more than once when trying to make his case (a red flag). Articles like this can scare people away from doing truly beneficial things for their birds. Biofilms are real. Resistant bacteria are real. But lowering the PH of a system reduces the biofilm, not increases it. And not all biofilms are bad. In fact, what we all should strive for, human and bird alike, is a healthy gut flora with a slick biofilm that prevents the colonization of the bad bacteria. In the coming weeks, I will work on an article that will explain this in more detail and cite research to back it up.
In the meantime, and especially now as fanciers are fearful of new disease outbreaks, we must maintain our skepticism and keep a critical eye on the information we are reading. We cannot and should not assume that what we are reading is truth unless it is coming from credible and impartial sources. Please consider the motivations behind the authors of any article, myself included.
- David Stephenson, Kastle Pigeon