The US Food and Drug Administration has decided to ban some uses of a class of antibiotics on livestock out of concern that bacteria that sicken humans are becoming resistant to the drugs.
Some extralabel uses of cephalosporin antibiotics, such as giving the drug to animals to prevent disease rather than treat a specific illness, will become illegal. The ban is scheduled to take effect on April 5.
affects antibiotics called cephalosporins
, drugs used widely to treat things like pneumonia or skin infections in people.
Cephalosporins are especially useful for children with infections; unlike other antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones and tetracyclines, there aren't any restrictions on pediatric use of cephalosporins.
They also are important for treating bacterial meningitis and bone, urinary tract, and upper respiratory system infections.
But veterinarians use them, too. In dairy cattle cephalosporins are used to treat Salmonella infections and in broilers and turkeys the baby chicks get injected with these antibiotics already in the egg to prevent them getting sick from E. coli and other poultry diseases later.
Still, the more the cephalosporins are used, the greater the chances that they will stop working in the future due to the bacteria having become resistant to them.
Bacterial resistance has long been a source of concern for many public health experts, including the Pew Health Group. Pew said in a press release
that while "the FDA has approved cephalosporins to treat some infections in food animals, the drugs often are administered in ways not specifically approved by the agency."
This "extralabel" use of antibiotics by livestock producers is linked to the emergence of resistant bacteria, or superbugs, that have infected tens of thousands of people, according to David Wallinga, a physician at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and a member of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition.
Today, the FDA said the drugs remain critically important for humans, so their use should be restricted only to humans.
The decision to restrict the cephalosporins comes just two weeks after the FDA announced
it was trashing a 1977 proposal to remove approvals for two antibiotics, penicillins and tetracyclines, used in livestock and poultry feed.