This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban in using a particular class of antibiotics on food producing animals in order to preserve its effectiveness for treatments of illness in humans.
According to the FDA press release, the new order will go into effect on April 5, 2102 and will prohibit "certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys."
Protecting the effectiveness of this drug class is what is driving this latest restriction in a series of movements to ensure that antibiotic effectiveness does not wane.
The press release said, "FDA is taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans. Prohibiting these uses is intended to reduce the risk of cephalosporin resistance in certain bacterial pathogens."
The FDA cites that if bacterial resistance emerges, doctors will have to use drugs that are less effective and/or have greater side effects.
"We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals," said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
The cephalosporin class of antibiotics is used for different types of infections in various parts of the body. Common ailments this drug class is used to treat are pneumonia, strep throat, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections, staph infections and bronchitis, to name a few. It is not effective in viral infections that cause illnesses such as cold and flu.
Restrictions include using cephalosporin drugs in cattle, swine, chickens or turkeys that are "not approved for use in that species", using this class of drugs for disease prevention and also using the cephalosporin drugs at unapproved dose levels, frequencies, length of time or routes of administration, said the FDA statement.
With this new rule, routine injections of the cephalosporin class drugs can no longer be used for long-term and large doses in cattle/swine nor can the drugs be injected into chicken eggs.
This restriction was brought up in 2008, however was revoked prior to execution, after public comment was received. This 2012 version takes into account those earlier public comments into consideration, including exceptions for non-major food producing animals.
The exceptions added to the order include: no limit on the use of cephapirin, an older cephalosporin drug, veterinarians can use/prescribe cephalosporins for "limited extra-label use" in designated food producing animals as long as they carefully follow prescribed instructions on the label. Additionally, using the drugs for non 'major' food producing animals, such as rabbits and ducks, have no restriction.
This move is the most recent step in what the New York Times described as the FDA's "incremental steps" towards weaning overuse. The NYT cited the FDA's restriction ten years ago for fluoroquinolones, which includes the powerful drug Cipro.
Once antibiotics became available, they were considered "wonder drugs" and used in blanket form, however now concerns are that this overuse will cause long-term harm. Over time the FDA has been trying to "wean farmers, ranchers and veterinarians from excessive use of the medicines," said the NYT.
No decision on a controversial 2010 FDA proposed prohibition of use of drugs such as penicillin and tetracycline in agriculture. The New York Times reported in June 2010 the FDA had been trying to get this passed for three decades as superbugs and antibiotic resistance have been on the rise.
Those two drugs are commonly used in water and animal feed as a preventative measure to combat illness, but other uses cited for the antibiotics include using it to fatten animals.
Unsanitary living conditions is also an issue in food production. The massive egg recall in 2010 was traced back to disgusting conditions at the farms where the eggs were produced.
For the latest revision of the drug class restriction, a new comment period began on Jan. 6 and will remain open until March 6. The FDA said any comments made will be taken into consideration prior to the new mandate on April 5.