Thursday, July 29, 2010

Antimicrobial use in livestock can hurt humans

All IPs know that bacterial resistance to antimicrobials is increasing, but the problem isn’t just poor stewardship in humans – animal use is a culprit, too. The FDA recently released a draft guidance titled “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals,” which is intended to develop policy on animal antimicrobial use as it affects bacterial resistance and human health.

The guidance summarizes 15 key scientific reports going back to 1969 and then issues FDA’s non-binding recommendations. The reports study evidence that antimicrobial use in food-producing animals develops resistant bacteria, as well as evidence that bacteria is transmitted from the animals to humans. Almost every report concludes that using antimicrobials in food-producing animals poses a public health risk due to the development of bacterial resistance (the reports that do not reach the same conclusion say simply that there wasn’t enough evidence at the time to reach any conclusion at all).

Not all antimicrobial use in livestock is problematic – FDA does make the point that using antimicrobials is beneficial when it ensures animal health. However, sometimes antimicrobials are not used to prevent, treat, or control any disease, but to increase rate of weight gain or improve feed efficiency. Further, some of these antimicrobials are medically important for use in humans. As it is critically important that we maintain the effectiveness of antimicrobials for humans, FDA now calls non-therapeutic animal use “injudicious.” FDA recommends that non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in animals be discontinued, and that all use should be overseen by veterinarians.

The guidance notes that FDA’s suggestions are non-binding, and requests comments from all interested parties.

You can read the guidance itself here:

FAQ on the guidance here:

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