Antibiotic resistance and farming
Antibiotics in farm livestock
Antibiotic overuse and resistant bacteria are not just issues in healthcare. Many farming practices involve the use of antibiotic treatments. While in the UK this is restricted to prescribed treatments for the management of disease, some countries (particularly the USA) allow farmers to give livestock a low dose of antibiotics to prevent illnesses and even to promote growth. The EU banned such use of antibiotics in 2006.
The risk to humans
Using antibiotics on farms increases the risk of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria arising in the farm environment. Evidence suggests that it also puts farm workers and even consumers at greater risk of infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as increasing the contamination of local soil and waterways.
Humans and animals are not affected by many of the same bacteria or resistance genes, but there are some that pose a risk. Some bacteria are also able to transmit resistance to others, even of a different type, meaning that the resistance can be spread to new environments where humans may be at risk.
Controlling the use of antibiotics
It is widely accepted that antibiotic use in livestock requires regulation and control to prevent the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As part of a global One Health effort, it is important that responsible use of antibiotics in livestock takes place alongside responsible use in humans. Efforts to control the spread of resistance in the environment are also an important part of this strategy.
While many resistant infections in people come from other people, healthcare settings and the natural environment, more research is required to understand if, and how, they may be transmitted from animals, including domestic pets, that they encounter (at work or home) or the food they eat.
Find out more about how we are fighting antibiotic resistance, and how you can help us create a safer future for our children and grandchildren.