Why are antimicrobials used in farm animals? Is this a risk to human health?
The SMAC report states that 50% of antimicrobial use is in man and about 50% is in animals either in veterinary medicine or as growth promoters. There is now come concern as to whether the use of antimicrobials in animals can contribute to antimicrobial resistance problems in human infections. A special supplement in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal concludes that there is some risk associated with antimicrobial use in animals and recommends that antimicrobials are only used therapeutically i.e. to treat specific illnesses, not as growth promoters. This review concluded that all antimicrobial use (in animals, agriculture and humans) contributes to the problem of antimicrobial resistance in microbes. The implication is that this then increases the number of human infections that are resistant. A report commissioned by Health Canada similarly concluded that antimicrobial use in animals is linked directly and indirectly to antimicrobial resistant infections in humans. In addition a report by the UK House of Lords stated that "The evidence we have heard strongly suggests that there is a continuing threat to human health from imprudent use of antibiotics in animals." An alternative viewpoint is held by the US Animal Health Institute who declare that the use of antibiotics in food producing animals does not put humans more at risk of antibiotic resistant disease.
Date of Posting: 24/01/2003
Date of next Review: 15/01/2005
Why are antimicrobials used in crop production?
Veterinary Drugs; Farm Animals; Antibiotics; Drug Resistance, Microbial; Drug Resistance, Bacterial