24 August 1999
Makers admit antibiotic threat to humans
By FWi staff
ANTIBIOTICS manufacturers have admitted that routinely using the drugs to make animals grow faster might contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.
The admission was made today by a spokesman for the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) – the lobby firm which represents the UK animal medicine industry.
“The evidence doesnt show that there is a link, but it shows that there might be some small link,” the spokesman told Farmers Weekly.
Human resistance to the antibiotics used widely in hospitals has increased alarmingly over recent years, according to the World Health Organisation.
Until now, NOAH has blamed that increase on an over-reliance on antibiotics in human medicine rather than their use as growth promoters on farms.
But critics have long claimed that human resistance to antibiotics can also be traced to the use of the drugs as growth promoters in livestock production.
Many farmers give antibiotics to livestock to control the bacteria that live in animals intestines and deprive them of the nutrients they absorb from food.
Opponents claim that resistance to antibiotics in farm animals can be transferred to people who eat meat, making them resistant to certain medicines.
Last week, an independent advisory committee warned the government that the threat to human health from antibiotics should be reduced.
The NOAH spokesman said today that it would be wrong, however, to blame human resistance to antibiotics on the use of the drugs in animal production.
The on-farm use of antibiotics in livestock was dwarfed by the contribution made by human use, he said.
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.