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article imageRates of antimicrobial resistance rising drastically in animals

By Tim Sandle     Sep 22, 2019 in Science
New research shows that antimicrobial-resistant infections are increasing in animals across low and middle income countries at a rate far faster that earlier predictions suggested.
The new study, from ETH Zurich, provides a detailed examination of global of resistance rates, and identifies regions where interventions by governments are urgently needed. The primary reason why rates of antimicrobial resistance are increasing is due to economic growth in parts of India, China, Latin America and Africa. Due to economic prosperity, greater numbers within these regions are consuming more meat and dairy products. And antibiotics are misused in many parts of the world to prop up meat production.
On a global scale, the U.S. and China are the largest users of antibiotics for food production. However, as meat production becomes more commercialized in other regions, so too does antibiotic use - unless the trend can be abated.
A woman feeds a horse at Willows Farm
A woman feeds a horse at Willows Farm
READ MORE: WHO outlines antimicrobial strategy
In many cases, feed-additive antibiotic usage is an integral part of animal-production technology, where the adding of antibiotics leads to the creation of 'leaner' meat (animals given antimicrobial tend to grow more quickly). In addition, the indiscriminate administering of antibmicrobials to animals is a way of side-stepping putting in place better animal hygiene conditions. A number of countries have subsequently banned this practice, but this is not the case with many emerging economies.
Fungi growing in axenic culture (ascomycetes)
Fungi growing in axenic culture (ascomycetes)
Photo by: Dr. David Midgley Cultures: Dr. David Midgley University of Sydney, Australia
The problem is - wider use of anitbiotics leads to an increase in bacteria becoming resistant to antimicrobials (and where a given organism is resistant to one or more antibiotics the organism is classed as a 'superbug'). This is not only something that effects the animals, it impacts on human populations and human health as well.
A cow at Willows Farm
A cow at Willows Farm
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health globally. Most scientists predict that without policies in place to reduce antimicrobial use, resistance could be responsible for 10 million deaths each year globally by 2050, due to infections that can be treated today no longer being treatable. To tackle this not only requires new antimicrobials to be discovered; it required antimicrobial use to be reduced and controlled - only used for people where necessary and massively reduced when it comes to animals.
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The new research looks at where, and in which animals species resistance occurred for the common foodborne bacteria Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus species. The highest resistance rates were associated with the antimicrobials most frequently used in animals, such as: tetracyclines, sulphonamides, penicillins and quinolones. The data also showed that resistance rates have tripled for chicken and pigs over the last 20 years.
Three goats pose for the Digital Journal at Willows Farm
Three goats pose for the Digital Journal at Willows Farm
In order to promote the issue, to allow other researchers to contribute, and to help to promote the importance of the issue, the researchers have created an open-access web platform called The platform shares the latest findings and explains the issues relating to antimicrobial resistance in animals.
The new study has been published in the journal Science. The research paper is titled "Global trends in antimicrobial resistance in animals in low- and middle-income countries."
More about antimicrobials, Bacteria, Microbiology
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