Animal antibiotics speed resistance in people

April 30, 2002 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Animal antibiotics speed resistance in people

The use of antibiotics on farm animals is hastening drug resistance among humans. The growing worldwide resistance to antibiotics has limited the arsenal of infectious disease-fighting drugs and is emerging as a major public health problem. One reason is the use of the drugs when they are not necessary. But many experts also believe that the widespread antibiotic use by livestock farmers to promote growth is contributing to the trend.

The trouble starts when bacteria, living in livestock, become resistant to an antibiotic due to repeated exposure. Humans then pick up the resistant bacteria when they eat or handle meat that contains antibiotic residues.

According to a new study, agricultural antibiotic use has a small effect on the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria overall. But it may accelerate the rate at which resistance develops in humans. The findings suggest that restricting the use of antibiotics in farm animals could reduce the rate of antibiotic resistance among humans. Regulating early agricultural antibiotic use would likely extend the period that a drug can be used effectively in humans and reduce the demands for new antibiotics.

In Canada, antibiotics are used to treat and prevent infection in chicken, beef cattle, hogs and farmed fish.

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