A new British report commissioned by David Cameron says the use of antibiotics in agriculture is fueling the spread of drug-resistant bacteria and must be reduced or even banned where they are important to human health.

The report comes weeks after scientists said they discovered bacteria resistant to all antibiotics in China, and just days after the same genetically mutated bug showed up in Denmark.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, led by former Goldman-Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill, says that it won’t be easy setting or implementing global reduction goals for antibiotic use, but the lives of both humans and animals depend on it.

The review suggests following the examples of Denmark – which uses an average of less than 50mg of antibiotics a year per kilogram on livestock – and the Netherlands.

As humans use more antibiotics, the issue of drug-resistance is growing in severity. This is also a problem among livestock, the report says. The paper acknowledges that some antibiotics are necessary for treating infections in animals and offers considerable benefits for food production, such as promoting growth.

Feeding animals antibiotics for purposes such as growth promotion or to stop the development of infections within a flock or herd, for example, is “excessive and inappropriate,” the report states.

“I find it staggering that in many countries, most of the consumption of antibiotics is in animals rather than humans. This creates a big resistance risk for everyone, which was highlighted by the recent Chinese finding of resistance to colistin, an important last-resort antibiotic that has been used extensively in animals,” said O’Neill.

“As we’ve highlighted, most of the scientific research provides evidence to support curtailing antibiotic use in agriculture. It’s time for policymakers to act on this. We need to radically reduce global use of antibiotics, and to do this we need world leaders to agree to an ambitious target to lower levels, along with restricting the use of antibiotics important to humans.”

In the U.S., more than 70% of the use of medically important antibiotics is in animals; human use only accounts for 30%.

“This creates a big resistance risk for everyone,” he said. “It’s time for policy makers to act on this.”

In his initial report, O’Neill estimated that antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance could kill an extra 10 million people a year and cost up to $100 trillion by 2050 if not addressed and solved immediately.

Sources:

[1] Reuters

[2] The Guardian


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.