News / USA

    US: Antibiotic Use in Livestock Harms People

    Concerned about link between livestock antibiotic use and drug-resistant infections in people, US recommends ending some uses

    Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.
    Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    U.S. health officials say there is unequivocal evidence of a link between overuse of antibiotics in healthy livestock and drug-resistant disease in people.

    In a break from previous policy, they are recommending an end to the practice.

    In nearly all the major livestock-producing countries in the world, farmers add small amounts of antibiotics to the animals' feed. It keeps them healthy and helps them grow better.

    Public health groups have opposed the practice because bacteria continually exposed to antibiotics will eventually develop resistance to them.

    Many causes

    Antibiotic-resistant infections are one of the world's most serious health concerns. Many factors contribute to the rising incidence, including over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors and misuse among patients.

    But routinely feeding the drugs to healthy livestock to improve growth is also contributing, public health groups say.

    The livestock industry argues that it's a long way from farm to fork, and there's no evidence that feeding antibiotics to healthy animals is harming people.

    Officials draw link

    Ali Khan, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disagreed at a recent congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.

    "There's unequivocal evidence [of a] relationship between use of antibiotics in animals and transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans," he said.

    Khan pointed to numerous scientific studies from Europe, Canada, and the United States, as well as reports from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Institute of Medicine, that all show a link between veterinary use of antibiotics and higher risk of drug-resistant infections among humans.

    At the same hearing, Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said that, in one of the best studies researchers used molecular fingerprinting to follow an outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria: "You actually can trace the specific bacteria around and they find that the resistant strains in humans match the resistant strains in the animals."

    New position

    These strong statements opposing the practice represent a new U.S. government position on the issue. The FDA recently issued new guidance to the livestock industry recommending they stop using antibiotics as growth promoters.

    "This is a very important event," says Jorgen Schlundt, head of food safety at the World Health Organization. "And it's actually following the guidance that WHO already gave out where we suggested that countries should actually stop using antibiotics as growth promoters."

    Until now, only the European Union has followed the WHO's suggestion, banning the practice in 2006. Schlundt says it remains common in other major livestock-producing countries.

    Recommendation or regulation?

    While the FDA's recommendations are seen as a step in the right direction, they are voluntary. Critics say that's not enough.

    Schlundt says while countries vary in their appetite for regulation, "In our experience, regulation is probably needed in an area like this."

    But others say more regulation would be a mistake. The livestock industry and the nation's leading veterinarians' group says the antibiotics are helping to prevent animal disease, which ultimately makes the food supply safer.

    University of Minnesota epidemiology professor Randall Singer says a ban could do more harm than good.

    "If we were to pull those antibiotics from disease prevention, we will see disease," he says. "And my fear is, as we see more disease, we'll end up with more problems in our food supply."

    The CDC's Ali Khan and the FDA's Joshua Sharfstein said that fear is unfounded.

    Congress is considering legislation that would ban certain antibiotics from animal use. But it faces strong opposition from farm-state lawmakers, and even its supporters say Congress is unlikely to pass the measure this year.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora