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The role of antibiotic growth promoters; Specialists report

by 5m Editor
1 September 2003, at 12:00am

UK - Antibiotic growth promoters may have important prophylactic activity in food animals, according to a group of human and veterinary microbiology specialists studying the effects of the European Union's ban on such products.

The role of antibiotic growth promoters; Specialists report - UK - Antibiotic growth promoters may have important prophylactic activity in food animals, according to a group of human and veterinary microbiology specialists studying the effects of the European Union's ban on such products.

In an article titled "The European ban on growth-promoting antibiotics and emerging consequences for human and animal health" published in the 'Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy' the group investigate the effects of the EU ban on antibiotic growth promoters avoparcin in 1997, and bacitracin, spiramycin, tylosin and virginiamycin in 1999.

They say the only attributable effect in humans has been a diminution in acquired resistance in enterococci isolated from human faecal carriers.

There has been an increase in human infection from vancomycin-resistant enterococci in Europe, probably related to the increase in usage of vancomycin for the treatment of methicillin-resistant staphylococci.

The ban of growth promoters has, however, revealed that these agents had important prophylactic activity and their withdrawal is now associated with a deterioration in animal health, including increased diarrhea, weight loss and mortality due to E.coli and Lawsonia intracellularis in early post-weaning pigs, and clostridial necrotic enteritis in broilers.

A directly attributable effect of these infections is the increase in usage of therapeutic antibiotics in food animals, including that of tetracycline, aminoglycosides, trimethoprim/sulphonamide, macrolides and lincosamides, all of which are of direct importance in human medicine.

The theoretical and political benefit of the ban of growth promoters needs to be more carefully weighed against the adverse consequences, say the authors - Mark Casewell, University of London; Christian Friis, Royal Veterinary and Agriculture University, Copenhagen; Enric Marco, B & M Consulting, Barcelona; Paul McMullin, Poultry Health Services Ltd, Thirsk; Ian Phillips, University of London. The review was prepared independently by these authors following a meeting sponsored by Elanco Animal Health.

BBC Radio 4 - Tim Hirsch reports.

Fifty years ago, a law came into force which revolutionised the British livestock industry. It gave farmers permission to add small amounts of penicillin to their animals' feed. Since then, fears have grown worldwide that the over-use of antibiotics has helped to breed bugs resistant to human medicines -- and the EU is phasing out the practice. But the ban on growth-promoting drugs still leaves antibiotics to treat animal diseases -- and some scientists argue this could create an even greater hazard to human health.

Click Here to Listen to Tim Hirsch's Report (Real Audio)

Further Reading

The case for banning sub therapeutic use of antibiotics

For further information on the reported benefits of banning sub therapeutic use of antibiotics, have a look at the following articles:

Successfully phasing out growth promoters Food Safety and Pig Production in Denmark - A Summary The "Success" of the Danish Swine Antibiotics Ban DANMAP 2000 - Use of antimicrobial agents in Denmark. Health Documentary - Antibiotics on the farm: Denmark and US Experiences Question and Answers on antibiotics in feed

The case against banning sub therapeutic use of antibiotics

For further information on the arguments against the banning sub therapeutic use of antibiotics, have a look at the following articles: The European ban on growth-promoting antibiotics and emerging consequences for human and animal health Antibiotics Ban Wouldn't Stop Resistance Banning Antibiotics at What Cost? Antimicrobials and resistance in relation to veterinary medicines Economic impacts of banning subtheraputic use of antibiotics in swine production These and additional articles on this subject can be found in our Feed and Nutrition Features area.

Related Links

Food Animal Initiative

Source: National Pig Association, BBC Radio 4 - 1st September 2003

5m Editor