Growing antibiotic resistance an urgent problem

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The overuse of antibiotics in animals produced for food could lead to the spread of antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance (AMR) in humans.

Growing antibiotic resistance an urgent problem

AMR refers to bacteria that are able to stop an antibiotic from working against them, resulting in standard treatments becoming ineffective.

Speaking at the Limpopo Red Meat Producers’ Organisation’s (RPO) 2017 congress, Prof Natalie Schellack, associate professor in clinical pharmaceutics at the Sefaku Makgatho Health Science University, said that one could not stop the use of antibiotics in livestock farming, but could use it less frequently, which would help curb the spread of AMR.

“For example, bacteria that become resistant in cows that are treated for mastitis can carry the resistant gene over to bacteria in humans that then become resistant to a certain type of antibiotic,” Shellack said.

A paper on antibiotic use in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa showed that an estimated 63 000t of antibiotic was used in livestock every year, while this was projected to increase 67% by 2030.

This was a result of rising consumer demand for food in middle-income countries, and a shift to large-scale farms where antibiotics were often used.

Local veterinarians, however, have asked for the ban of antibiotics to be used as growth promoters, Shellack said.