A major position statement released in the journal Pharmacotherapy by the Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists is calling for significant changes in the way in which antibiotics are given to agricultural animals and how antibiotics and antifungals are used on plants. The panel that crafted the statement was led by Michael Nailor, an associate clinical professor in the UConn School of Pharmacy and at Hartford Hospital Department of Pharmacy.
Antibiotics have been given to agricultural animals in the U.S. since the 1950s, when the practice was thought to accelerate animal growth rates, which resulted in increased meat and milk production. It did then, says Nailor, “but there is no compelling data that it still has the same effects, given contemporary agricultural methods for breeding, feeding, and general care.”
The practice, however, has absolute risks, says Nailor. “The FDA, USDA, and CDC all testified before Congress that the routine use of antibiotics in healthy agricultural animals was a major cause of antibiotic resistance in humans. Approximately 2 million illnesses and 23,000 human deaths annually are directly attributable to antibiotic resistance, and no matter how much effort is spent to decrease antibiotic overuse by primary care physicians and in hospitals, we cannot curtail this rising epidemic without controlling antibiotic use in agricultural animals.”
Farm animals can infect people through bacteria on undercooked meats and by infecting farm workers, butchers, or grocers who then transmit the disease to others, warns Nailor, adding that insects, too, can act as carriers. —colin poitras ’85 (clas)