Jul 2nd, 2014
Save our antibiotics
By Rebecca Falcon
The rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs is one of the most serious health problems the world faces. And it’s happening right now.
“If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine.” This is what David Cameron said today, as he announced the UK will lead a global effort to develop new drugs.
The resistance crisis is caused mainly by overuse in human medicine, but also in factory farming. It’s crucial we develop new drugs. But also protect the ones we currently have. And we can’t do that if antibiotics are routinely given to animals – which leads to resistance – which passes to humans.
The extent to which antimicrobial resistance (AMR) originating in farm animals is contributing to antimicrobial resistance in humans is disputed by some, but the World Health Organisation has said (2011):
‘Resistance [in the foodborne zoonotic bacteria salmonella and campylobacter] is clearly linked to antibiotic use in food animals, and foodborne diseases caused by such resistant bacteria are well documented in people. Of special concern is resistance to so-called critically important antibiotics for human medicine. … Antibiotic resistance … has been associated with more frequent and longer hospitalization, longer illness, a higher risk of invasive infection and a twofold increase in the risk of death …’
and the European Food Safety Authority has said (2008):
‘Resistant [bacteria] involved in human disease are mostly spread through foods. With regards to salmonella, contaminated poultry meat, eggs, pork and beef are prominent in this regard. For campylobacter, contaminated poultry meat is prominent. Cattle are a major reservoir for E coli [verotoxigenic Escherichia coli] and resistant strains may colonize humans via contaminated meat of bovine origin more commonly than from other foods. Animal-derived products remain a potential source of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Food-associated MRSA, therefore, may be an emerging problem.’
Other European countries like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, have already acted and have banned or phased out the routine use of antibiotics in farming. Together we can make sure the UK follows their lead. The Alliance of Antibiotics have started a petition on Campaigns By You to force the government to take action, you can sign the petition here.
“Intensive livestock farming systems rely on routinely giving animals antibiotics, often when no disease is present, just to ensure they survive the squalid, overcrowded, and stressful conditions in which they are kept. But this puts human health at risk.”
Alison Craig, of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics
But big intensive farming companies and big pharmaceutical companies will be lobbying the government to try and prevent them from taking action. 38 Degrees members have a strong track record of standing up to big business and protecting our NHS. So let’s make sure people-power drowns out their lobbying.
Together we can force the government to ban or phase out the routine preventative use of antibiotics in farming.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics is an alliance of health, medical, environmental and animal welfare groups working to stop the over-use of antibiotics in animal farming. It was founded by the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming, and Sustain in 2009, and is supported by the Jeremy Coller Foundation. Its vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely routinely on antibiotics and related drugs.