Drug firms antibiotics admission

27 August 1999

Drug firms antibiotics admission

ANTIBIOTICS manufacturers have conceded that using the drugs to make animals grow faster might contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.

The admission came during a war of words which followed last weeks release of two headline-grabbing reports criticising the use of antibiotics in livestock production.

Drug makers and organic farmers started trading insults soon after the pro-organic Soil Association condemned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in livestock.

The Soil Associations report appeared timed to coincide with a less contentious publication by the governments microbiological safety advisers which called for a gradual reduction in the use of antibiotics (News, Aug 20).

The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) – the lobby firm which represents the UK animal medicine industry – said it welcomed the report by the governments advisors.

But NOAH director Roger Cook slammed the Soil Associations forecast of a major epidemic of human diseases which have developed multiple drug resistance.

Such a claim was "wrong on all counts and highly alarmist," said Mr Cook.

In response, Soil Association spokesman Richard Young said Mr Cook was "completely wrong" to deny any direct causal link between disease problems in humans and the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

A NOAH spokesman has since conceded that using the drugs to make livestock grow faster might contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.

"The evidence doesnt show that there is a link, but it shows that there might be some small link," the spokesman told farmers weekly.

But it would be wrong to blame human resistance to antibiotics solely on the use of the drugs in animal production, he added. The on-farm use of antibiotics was dwarfed by the their use in human medicine, said the spokesman. And he criticised the suggestion that it was more important to use antibiotics as medicines for humans rather than as growth promoters for livestock.

"If antibiotics arent used in animals, the risk is that diseases are transferred to a greater extent to the human food chain," he said. &#42

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