Cutting antibiotic use in animals could protect humans
Reducing antibiotic use in food-producing animals is critically important to address antibiotic resistance in humans, according to Professor Allen Cheng, Director of Infection Prevention, and Dr Freya Langham.
Between 2005 and 2010, 182 tonnes of antibiotics were sold for use each year in animals, and 121 tonnes per year were used in humans according to the report published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Using data from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and the National Antimicrobial Utilisation Surveillance Program, Professor Cheng and Dr Langham found penicillins made up more than half of antibiotic use in humans, while macrolides and tetracyclines were more common in animals.
“This use is predominantly in food animals for therapeutic purposes, however, during this period, macrolides were the only antibiotic class used in food animals for growth promotion purposes, accounting for 11.5 per cent of mean animal macrolide use.”
The authors suggested that the large volume of antibiotics used in food-producing animals could be reduced by limiting use of antibiotics for purposes other than infections, and developing preventive strategies such as vaccination and improved design of production facilities.
“There is a need to have systems that monitor the amount of antibiotics that are used in animals, and to what degree this is appropriate,” Professor Cheng said.
“Moreover, the available evidence suggests that a significant proportion of antibiotic use in humans is inappropriate, and this needs to be addressed in both hospital and community settings.”
Hospital surveys cited by the authors estimate that 38 per cent of patients are receiving at least one antimicrobial at any single point in time, and 23 per cent of these antibiotics were inappropriate.