Antibiotics in Animal Feed
Debate Heats Up in the USA

Experts call for limiting antibiotic use
By Steve Mitchell
Medical Correspondent

>From the Science & Technology Desk
Published 5/9/2002 6:21 PM

WASHINGTON, May 9 (UPI) -- A group of antibiotic experts Thursday called
for the government and industry to take steps to curtail the use of certain
antibiotics in farm animals because the practice could have deadly
consequences for humans.

One of the main problems is certain antibiotics are used to promote growth
in chickens, cows and other food-producing animals, which can lead to
strains of bacteria resistant to the antibiotics, Stuart Levy, president of
the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, told United Press

Many of these bacteria can then infect people and cause fatal illnesses if
antibiotics are no longer effective against them, added Levy, who is also
director of the center for adaptation genetics and drug resistance at Tufts
University School of Medicine in Medford, Mass.

The increase in bacteria resistant to antibiotics has been a growing
problem over the past several years. The main bacteria of concern are
salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli. The World Health Organization
calculates each year approximately 14,000 Americans die due to
drug-resistant infections.

The U.S. government is also concerned about the problem and both the FDA
and the Senate are taking steps to curtail antibiotic use in farm animals.
The alliance, which held a news conference to discuss the issue and also
published a report in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, consists of
scientists and physicians from around the world who are involved in
studying antibiotic resistance.

Their recommendations call for discontinuing the use of antibiotics for
growth promotion purposes.

"It's an out-of-date, no longer acceptable practice," Levy said, noting the
European Union has banned it.

Although inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans leads to the
development of resistance, Levy said, "I could argue that animal use is
more pervasive because of the resistant bacteria leaching into the

Resistant bacteria and the antibiotics are excreted from the animals and
leach into soil and water, he said.

Two classes of antibiotics are of major concern -- fluoroquinolones,
including the anthrax drug Cipro, and cephalosporins.

Drugs in these classes "may be the last resort for particular diseases" and
as such "should be given extra special attention," Levy said. There may be
cases where veterinarians or farmers have to use fluoroquinolones or
cephalosporins but "they should not be used unless there's no other
option," he said.

Levy noted poultry producers Tyson and Purdue have voluntarily cut down on
their use of fluoroquinolones and McDonald's and other fast food chains
have stopped buying chickens from producers who use the antibiotics.

"We definitely consider this a problem," Linda Tollefson, deputy director
of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, told UPI, noting the agency
has proposed a ban on the use of fluoroquinolones in chickens.
"Resistance to these antibiotics has developed and it is affecting humans,"
she said.

However, it may take a year or longer before the ban goes into effect,
Tollefson said, because it is currently being challenged by Bayer, which
makes the fluoroquinolone Baytril for poultry. Baytril is the same
antibiotic used in humans under the name Cipro.

However, legislation to be introduced Thursday by Sens. Edward Kennedy,
D-Mass., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., "takes immediate action to implement the
decision of FDA to withdraw these drugs from our food supply," the senators
said in a release.

The legisation, The Preservation of Antibiotics for Human Treatment Act,
will also "protect the health of Americans by phasing out the
non-therapeutic use in livestock of medically important antibiotics, unless
their manufacturers can show that they pose no danger to the public health."
The senators noted the act would "not restrict use of antibiotics to treat
sick animals or to treat pets and other animals not used for food."
Other antibiotics the FDA is concerned about include virginiamycin, an
antibiotic used to treat a type of bacterial infection called
vancomycin-resistant enterococci, which can be fatal in humans, Tollefson
said. In animals, virginiamycin is used for growth promotion.

Other growth-promoting antibiotics that can lead to bacterial resisistance
include penicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin and erythromycin, all of
which are commonly used to treat infections in humans.

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