Agricultural Use Of Antibiotics Could Create Health Crisis, Experts Warn

China’s use of thousands of tons of antibiotics in agriculture is a major cause for concern.

AsianScientist (Nov. 24, 2015) – Two medical experts from The University of Queensland are urging China to curb its use of antibiotics in animals to avoid what could be a ‘major health catastrophe’ for humans, following their research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Polymyxin antibiotic class is a “last-defence” antibiotic for patients, including in intensive care units, but its extensive use in agriculture in China was leading to resistance in humans, warned Professor David Paterson, Head of the Infection and Immunity group at UQ Center for Clinical Research.

“It will be very dangerous if people stop responding to this treatment. A key part of many intensive treatments relies on antibiotic success to fight life-threatening infection and keep further infections at bay. However, resistance to this antibiotic is now becoming widespread in chickens, pigs and other animals across Asia, and has now been detected in humans,” cautioned Paterson.

In the report, Paterson said the resistance was directly linked to agricultural use of the antibiotic in the food-chain.

“When humans eat the food derived from these animals fed with antibiotics, this leads to antibiotic resistance. By the end of 2015, China is projected to use thousands of tonnes of polymyxins. Chinese leaders needed to take urgent and decisive action to curb this use.” Paterson said.

The diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics is a major concern worldwide, says Paterson, making it much harder to treat superbugs.

“It also jeopardizes the use of antibiotics to prevent the risk of infection associated with common medical procedures, including cancer treatment, organ transplant and surgery. It is important to remember that antibiotics are a precious resource and should be used judiciously.”

Another researcher on the project, Dr. Patrick Harris, an infectious disease physician, agreed that a failure to act could lead to serious health problems.

“The only way to stop this problem is to stop the antibiotic use in animals otherwise we risk a major public health catastrophe.”

The article can be found at: Liu et al. (2015) Emergence of Plasmid-Mediated Colistin Resistance Mechanism MCR-1 in Animals and Human Beings in China: a Microbiological and Molecular Biological Study.


Source: The University of Queensland.
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