Resistance to antibiotics used in the treatment of various disease might
be due to the method of meat production.
Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to food animals, mainly for growth promotion. Global antibiotic use in food animals outweighs human consumption by nearly three times. Left unchecked, antibiotic use in food animal production will rise 53 percent globally between 2013 and 2030.
"This scale up in antibiotics, primarily as a substitute for good nutrition and hygiene in livestock production, is simply unsustainable and will be devastating to efforts to conserve the effectiveness of our current antibiotics. We already face a crisis, but continuing to use medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals is like pouring oil on a fire," said the study's senior author and CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan.
In the Science study, researchers estimated the global impact of three interventions on reducing antibiotic use in animals. Together, these interventions could reduce animal consumption of antibiotics worldwide by up to 80 percent.
- Regulations capping the use of antibiotics in farm animals could achieve a 64 percent reduction in consumption.
- Limiting meat intake to the equivalent of one fast-food burger per person per day globally, could reduce antibiotic consumption in animals by 66 percent.
- Imposing a 50 percent user fee on the price of veterinary antibiotics could reduce consumption by 31 percent while generating revenues of US $ 1.7 billion to $4.6 billion per year, which could be used to spur drug development.
Globally, more than 131,000 tons of antibiotics were used in animals in 2013, the researchers found. By 2030, projected consumption will increase to more than 200,000 tons. The current top five users of antibiotics in food production, by country, are China, United States, Brazil, India, Spain. The projected intake of antibiotics may increase between 6 to 82% by 2030.
Even in many countries where current use of antibiotics for food production is relatively low, researchers predict that consumption will explode over the next dozen years. For example, in Uganda, which used 199 tons of antibiotics for food animals in 2013, consumption is projected to double by 2030. And consumption is projected to increase 215 percent in Vietnam, which used 515 tons of antibiotics for food production in 2013.
In 2016, the meeting on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at the United Nations General Assembly recognized the inappropriate use of these drugs in animals as a leading cause of rising AMR.
"We face a critical choice if we are to have antibiotics that work. We can restrict our meat consumption to a recommended daily intake, or adopt state-of-art livestock practices globally to reduce antibiotic consumption," study author Thomas Van Boeckel noted. "We cannot have both without putting the health of future populations at risk."