23 April 1998
Antibiotics in farming threaten to unleash ‘superbugs’

MISUSE of antibiotics in intensive farming and overprescribing by doctors are major threats to public health and could undo the miracle of 20th century medicine, according to a House of Lords science and technology committee report.

The report claims that: “There is a dire prospect of returning to the pre-antibiotic era.”

It says “superbugs” known as MRSAs have become resistant because similar antibiotics have been used for 20 years on farms to promote the growth of intensively reared chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows.

The Lords committee was told that repeated warnings of the dangers had been ignored in the interests of farmers and drug companies.

The report contains 22 recommendations and urges the Government to develop a strong, coherent strategy for the restrained use of antibiotics.

Diseases which are becoming resistant to antibiotics include: tuberculosis, meningitis, malaria, MSRA (a life threatening infection prevalent in hospitals), gonorrhoea, pneumonia and typhoid.

The National Farmers Union was criticised for refusing to give evidence to the committee, but Brian Jennings, chairman of the unions health and welfare committee, said he was unaware that it had been invited.

  • The Guardian 23/04/98 page 1, page 5
  • The Times 23/04/98 page 1