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The meat industry’s use of antibiotics could be disastrous for the future of human health as the threat of antibiotic resistance nears.

The overuse of antibiotics in meat production has raised concerns regarding its impact on human health and the economy. Excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics in livestock can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, causing sickness in both animals and humans. Additionally, the economic burden associated with antibiotic resistance is substantial. This article highlights 10 antibiotics commonly used in meat production that contribute to sickness and economic losses when misused.

1. Penicillin

One of the first antibiotics to be discovered, penicillin’s use marked an important turning point in medical history. Finally, doctors had an effective drug that could treat patients suffering from a variety of bacterial infections. However, nearly one hundred years later, this miracle drug has developed a dark side. Overuse of penicillin in meat production can lead to the development of penicillin-resistant bacteria. This resistance can transfer to humans through the consumption of contaminated meat, causing infections that are difficult to treat.

Indeed, high levels of penicillin resistance are already present in the majority of Staphylococcus aureus strains found in the United States. Staphylococcus aureus can cause skin infections and pneumonia. Resistance to common antibiotics such as penicillin makes these conditions more dangerous and difficult to treat.

2. Tetracycline

Excessive use of tetracycline in livestock can lead to the emergence of tetracycline-resistant bacteria, impacting both animal and human health. These resistant strains can cause illnesses that are difficult to manage, leading to increased healthcare costs.

Tetracycline is still a relatively new antibiotic. However, concerns about tetracycline resistance are already emerging. Tetracyclines are commonly integrated into feeds for poultry, swine, and farmed aquatic animals. Although antibiotics such as tetracycline were developed to treat diseases, animal agriculture also uses them in feed due to their ability to promote livestock growth. Widespread use of tetracyclines as growth promoters could lead to increases in bacteria strains that show resistance to the antibiotic.

3. Erythromycin

Misuse of erythromycin in meat production can contribute to the development of erythromycin-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are resistant to erythromycin and other related antibiotics, leading to treatment failures and increased medical expenses.

Erythromycin is commonly used in lactating cattle as well as in sheep, pigs, and poultry. Along with tetracycline, erythromycin is commonly misused by the animal agriculture industry. Increasing rates of erythromycin-resistant bacteria are being found in meat food products. For example, some Italian sausages have been found to contain bacteria with high erythromycin resistance.

4. Sulfonamides

Sulfonamides are a group of antibiotics that can be used to treat a wide range of conditions. They are commonly used in veterinary medicine as a treatment for diseases in livestock. Overuse of sulfonamides in livestock can result in the emergence of sulfonamide-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are challenging to treat, leading to prolonged illness. Like other antibiotic-resistant illnesses, diseases that are resistant to sulfonamides can be difficult and costly to treat.

5. Fluoroquinolones

Fluoroquinolones are commonly used in poultry production. The off-label use of fluoroquinolones in animal agriculture was banned by the United States in 2005. This was due to a quantitative risk assessment survey performed by the Food and Drug Administration. This survey found that fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria had infected thousands of persons in the United States. These infections were related to the use of the drugs in poultry production. Although the ban was implemented, a later study suggested that the antibiotics were still in use.

Excessive use of fluoroquinolones in meat production can lead to the development of fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause severe infections in humans that are resistant to fluoroquinolones, limiting treatment options and potentially increasing medical expenses.

6. Cephalosporins

Cephalosporins are useful for the treatment of skin infections, meningitis, and more. It is frequently used to treat infections that have proven resistant to other antibiotics. The use of cephalosporins was restricted by the United States in 2012 due to concerns about the development of cephalosporin-resistant diseases. However, their use in animal agriculture remains common in other meat-producing countries.

Misuse of cephalosporins in livestock can contribute to the development of cephalosporin-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are difficult to manage, leading to increased healthcare costs and potentially compromising patient outcomes.

7. Macrolides

Frequently used to treat respiratory tract infections, macrolides are used in both human and veterinary medicine. Indeed, in-feed applications of these antibiotics (combined with others) are common in Europe. However, the frequent use and long half-lives of these antibiotics have caused concern about the potential for macrolides-resistant bacteria to develop.

Overuse of macrolides in meat production can lead to the emergence of macrolide-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are resistant to macrolides, limiting treatment options and potentially leading to higher medical expenses.

8. Aminoglycosides

Excessive use of aminoglycosides in livestock can contribute to the development of aminoglycoside-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are challenging to treat, leading to prolonged illness and increased healthcare costs.

Extralabel use of Aminoglycosides is discouraged by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This is because long-term use of aminoglycosides has been linked to their residue in food products derived from animals treated with them over long periods.

9. Vancomycin

Vancomycin was long used as a last resort for deadly diseases. However, vancomycin-resistant bacteria have become more common. One reason for this is the use of vancomycin as an additive in animal feeds.

Misuse of vancomycin in meat production can lead to the development of vancomycin-resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are resistant to vancomycin, a critical antibiotic for treating certain types of bacterial infections, resulting in limited treatment options and increased medical expenses.

10. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

A combination antibiotic, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole is used to treat a variety of medical conditions. However, its use within the animal agriculture industry has been linked to the proliferation of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole-resistant E. Coli strains.

Overuse of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole in meat production can contribute to the development of resistant bacteria. These resistant strains can cause infections in humans that are resistant to this combination drug, making treatment more challenging and potentially leading to higher healthcare costs.

Preventing Antibiotic-Resistant Diseases

The rising prevalence of diseases that are resistant to antibiotics will have a significant impact. Not only will global health be placed at severe risk, but there will also be huge economic impacts. In the United States alone, the CDC estimates that antimicrobial resistance adds 20 billion dollars in additional direct healthcare costs.

Fortunately, there are several ways to help protect the world from the emergence of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. First of all, try to prevent infection. Good hand hygiene can drastically reduce your risk of becoming ill. Handwashing has been shown to remove germs. This prevents them from finding a way into your body. Even antibiotic-resistant germs are removed through washing with water and plain soap. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also be used to kill germs. There is also preliminary evidence suggesting that probiotics can help reduce the likelihood of contracting an infectious disease. If you do become ill and are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor, be sure to take them as advised and complete the entire course.

The misuse of antibiotics in meat production not only jeopardizes human health but also imposes significant economic losses. The 10 antibiotics mentioned in this article serve as examples of frequently overused drugs that contribute to sickness and economic instability. Implementing responsible antibiotic usage practices, such as reducing unnecessary administration and promoting alternatives, is essential to mitigate these risks. By prioritizing sustainable practices, we can safeguard public health for both human and non-human animals.

Original source: https://www.onegreenplanet.org

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