Most antibiotics around the world today are fed to farm animals to promote growth and prevent diseases fostered by crowded conditions on factory farms. There is an urgent need to find alternatives to keep animals healthy, and preserve crucial antibiotics for human health. One way to do that would be to create an international treaty not to use antibiotics in livestock feed — and probiotics, like those found in yogurt, may be a stepping stone toward that goal.
CGD Policy Blogs
Imagine if a small cut could evolve into a lengthy hospital stay, or worse; if doctors refused to perform surgery or transplants due to prohibitive risk during recovery; and if our collective gains against the world’s biggest infectious killers—HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, pneumonia, and more—slowed, stalled, and reversed. These nightmare scenarios could become the new global reality if common pathogens evolve to withstand and survive treatment with antimicrobial drugs, a phenomenon known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
It seems the era of feeding large volumes of antibiotics to chickens to promote growth and prevent disease is on its way out. Tyson Foods announced it will join fellow producers, Perdue and Pilgrim’s Pride, and large buyers, such as McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle, in sharply reducing use in chickens of antibiotics that are also used in human medicine.
The human health costs of losing antibiotics as an effective treatment for infectious disease would be enormous. President Obama recognizes this and has made combating the challenge an administration priority.
A key component of any strategy for combating the global health threat posed by antibiotic resistance, including President Obama's, is to reduce the overuse and misuse of these vital drugs.
The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is catching flack for recommending that Americans consider the environmental consequences of eating so many burgers. Pointing to climate change and other environmental effects of meat production, the panel suggested Americans contemplate the broader implications when choosing what to eat.
With few new antibiotics in the pipeline and bacterial resistance to existing products spreading, the World Health Organization, the Obama administration, and other governments around the world are looking for ways to stem the tide. As the recent Ebola outbreak made clear, pathogens do not respect borders, so keeping antibiotics effective for as long as possible is a global issue requiring global cooperation.
With the threat of antimicrobial resistance on the rise, we are heartened by President Barack Obama’s recent executive order that outlines a national strategy to combat drug resistance, including creation of an inter-agency task force to implement and monitor the plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 2 million Americans suffer from antibiotic-resistant infections each year and that 23,000 of them die.
After years of growing concern that the extensive use of antibiotics in animals was leading to the spread of drug-resistant infections, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a final guidance document that seeks to eliminate the use of critical antibiotics to promote growth in animals.
Drug resistance, a neglected but increasingly urgent problem, receives some much-needed attention this week as the focus of this year’s World Health Day, also dubbed Antimicrobial Resistance Day, on Thursday, April 7.