Rising Antibiotics Resistance and Resultant Rise in Dreadful Infections in Animals and Humans Call for Reduction in Use of Antibiotics in Feed Premixes

Published On : 2018-10-09

There has been a vast rise in the global demand for livestock products such as eggs, milk, and meat in the past few years. To match this increased demand for food-producing animals and poultry, the utilization of antibiotics in feed premixes has also increased concurrently as the animal industry realized the benefits of this approach in the improved growth of the target animals. Addition of antibiotics in feed premixes has remained the face of the revolution brought about in the animal-production industry of the recent times.

Prophylactic and Growth Promotant Use or Reason for Long-term Resistance to Antibiotics?

The therapeutic use of antibiotics, which involves the treatment of a small group or infected animals with high doses of antibiotics for short durations is still an important intervention for ensuring the welfare of animals. However, the presumably prophylactic or growth promotant use of antibiotics, which involves the use of moderate doses of a variety of antibiotics across large groups of animals for extended durations has come under scrutiny over the years. This is attributed to the rising concerns associated with the safety of products derived from animals that have been exposed to higher dosage of antibiotics over durations much longer than recommended.

The use of antibiotics in food producing animals has increased to a degree that a large share of the overall antibiotics produced globally are used for feed additives. As a result, animals are becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics and are becoming more vulnerable to certain strains of stubborn disease-causing microorganisms that have acquired resistance to common antibiotics. Consumption of such animals and edibles derived from them could extend the antibiotic resistance in humans also. A vast rise in the number of studies confirming the side-effects of the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed for prophylactic or growth promotant uses is compelling policy makers and physicians to increase awareness across the animal-production industry regarding the need to stop the trend.

Rising Awareness Regarding the Larger Challenge of Antibiotic Resistance

Over the years, it has been realized that resistant infections can lead to more cases of mortality, morbidity, and require longer periods of stay in hospitals. In the U.S. alone, costs associated with the treatment of infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria has increased many times in the past decade and nearly ten times more cases of infections caused by microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus, which is resistant to meticillin, were registered in children’s hospitals in the country in 2008 as compared to a decade before.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of bacteria commonly transferred from food animals to people, including antibiotic resistant bacteria, have been increasing in numbers and comprise species such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E coli, and Enterococcus. Increasing numbers of studies show that conditions caused by bacteria, including S aureas, MRSA, and C difficile, are also found in food animals and can be later found in food products and surroundings shared with humans. Some may suggest that the development of new antibiotics can help solve the issue if the use of antibiotics can indeed lead to increased and relatively safer production of animal-derived foods. However, we cannot be completely sure that new antibiotics can indeed be developed anytime soon. And even if new antibiotics are indeed developed, some bacteria could acquire resistance to new drugs soon if the unwarranted use of antibiotics is continued in animal feed premixes.

Countries Introducing Strict Measures to Bring Down Use of Antibiotics in Feed Premixes

To alleviate the concern caused by the rising resistance to antibiotics and the resultant rise in more harmful infections, the only possible and sure-shot method is to reduce the unwarranted use of antibiotics in animals for growth or prophylactic purposes. This scenario has been compelling policy makers to enforce measures to reduce the overuse of antibiotics and feed premixes are increasingly moving towards their earlier, more basic formats. Reforms are being seen more prominently in countries that have most commonly adopted the measure of adding antibiotics to animal feed and feed premixes as a way of promoting animal production in the past.

In the U.S. and UK, for instance, the use of medicated feed has been a common approach in the field of animal husbandry over the past many decades. Even at present, nearly half of the antibiotics used in the UK are used in animal feed; the statistics may vary but the approach is highly popular in other European countries as well. However now, a large number of countries in the region are carefully reducing the use of antibiotics in animal feed premixes owing to the concerns regarding resistance. The Netherlands has almost completely stopped the regular use of antimicrobials in animal feed and feed premixes. As the concern becomes more understood and carefully assessed, more countries are expected to join the trend and reduce their usage of antibiotics in animal feed and feed premixes. Because the production of animal-derived foods is global in nature, enforceable measures to bring down the usage of antibiotics must be an international phenomenon to avert the looming catastrophe