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Monday, 06 January 2014
As if Antibiotic overuse by doctors over-prescribing it was not enough, now the overuse of antibiotics in the environment is adding to the problem. Overuse of antibiotics on trees, plants, and animals, are creating a public health crisis, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Resistant strands of bacteria have evolved over time in response to the overuse of these antibiotics in agriculture and aquaculture. Eighty percent of antibiotics used is used on agriculture and aquaculture. A total of 51 TON’s of antibiotics are consumed DAILY in the United States alone.
Antibiotics are fed to pigs to speed up growth and increase the efficiency of their digestion, added to food pellets and dropped to salmon in cages in the seas, sprayed on fruit trees, and even embedded in marine paint to inhibit the formation of barnacles. Such promiscuous use of antibiotics is not surprising: non–pharmaceutical-grade antibiotics are typically priced at approximately €20 per kilogram, and there is little regulation or oversight of their use in most of the world.
Recognizing the problem, the US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of fluoroquinolones in poultry in 2005. In 2012, it issued nonbinding guidance to farmers recommending that they avoid using antibiotics as animal-growth promoters, and in 2013, it encouraged pharmaceutical suppliers to voluntarily remove "production" uses from labelling within 3 years. In Europe, the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals has been banned, a move that has led to reductions in the volume of antibiotics used. In the Netherlands, the total volume of antibiotics sold initially remained unchanged, as farms reduced their use for growth promotion and increased their use for therapeutic purposes.
There is a great deal of concern that this profligate distribution of antibiotics around the world is contributing to the development and spread of resistant organisms. Agricultural industry groups, in line with their short-term financial interests, argue that there is no conclusive proof that the antibiotics used in agriculture harm human health. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that resistant pathogens are emerging and being selected for at least partly because of non-human uses of antibiotics. Bacteria are not particular about whether they colonize a milk cow or a human, and they easily exchange genes conferring resistance. Much of the non-human use occurs at sub-therapeutic levels that are nonetheless high enough to impart an advantage to surviving bacteria, but so far there is a lack of evidence regarding the extent to which various uses contribute to resistance. The fact remains that most of this non human use antibiotics ends up in the human food chain contributing to the development of antibiotic resistant organisms.
These resistant organisms have the ability to create a global health crisis if not addressed.
"The real value of antibiotics is saving people from dying. Everything else is trivial," lead author Aidan Hollis was quoted as saying. "This is incredibly important. Without effective antibiotics, any surgery – even minor ones – will become extremely risky. Ordinary infections will kill otherwise healthy people."
SOURCE: New England Journal of Medicine, December 2013