Home

News 457 views last update:7 Aug 2012

Antibiotic ban no effect on resistant bacteria

A surprising finding by a team of University of Georgia scientists suggests that curbing the use of antibiotics on poultry farms will do little (if anything) to reduce rates of antibiotic resistant bacteria that have the potential to threaten human health.

Dr. Margie Lee, professor in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, and her colleagues have found that chickens raised on antibiotic-free farms and even those raised under pristine laboratory conditions have high levels of bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. Her findings, published in the March issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, suggest that poultry come to the farm harbouring resistant bacteria, possibly acquired as they were developing in their eggs.
"The resistances don't necessarily come from antibiotic use in the birds that we eat," Lee said, "so banning antibiotic use on the farm isn't going to help. You have to put in some work before that."

Swapping genes
Bacteria swap genes relatively easily, and Lee explained that the concern is that drug resistance genes from bacteria that infect poultry could be passed on to bacteria that cause human illness. With these resistance genes, human bacterial illness could become harder to treat.
These concerns led the European Union to ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in chickens in 2006. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of the drug Baytril – the brand name for enrofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic – in poultry, citing concerns that it could lead to resistance in human antibiotics such as Cipro, also a fluoroquinolone.

Ban won't help
Several advocacy groups are pushing for a more comprehensive animal antibiotic ban in the United States, but Lee said her research plus the evidence from the Baytril ban suggests that this approach won't help. "They banned Baytril in 2005, and if you look at Baytril resistance in campylobacter now it's essentially unchanged," Lee said.

Related link:
University of Georgia

To receive the AllAboutFeed newsletter click here.

Editor AllAboutFeed

Or register to be able to comment.