Use of antibiotics in agriculture creating fertile ground for antibiotic resistance

Use of antibiotics in agriculture creating fertile ground for antibiotic resistance

Here's a rather disconcerting interview from Australia's ABC Radio program 'The Science Show' that examines the risks we are taking world wide by continuing to use vast quantities of antibiotics to raise livestock. "'s estimated 80% of antibiotic sales in the US is for livestock. Here in Australia only a third of all antibiotics consumed are for humans, while 350 tonnes of the drugs go into stockfeed annually......Meanwhile 170 Australians die each week of untreatable bacterial sepsis the result of antibacterial resistance. " Perhaps half of these deaths could be prevented by better control of antibiotic use according to the article.

Bacterial sepsis is a serious risk for CLL patients, particularly if they are neutropenic, either from the CLL or from treatment for their CLL - it's a common side effect of chemotherapy.

Overview, with links to Audio Streaming, Downloadable Audio file and Transcript:

Direct link to Transcript

Having recently needed fluoroquinolone antibiotic treatment for a hand infection for which I was running out of antibiotic options and for which the prescribing doctor had to call for approval to issue the prescription, I was interested to find out that "We already had a huge ban on one particular type of antibiotic in food producing animals in Australia and that's fluoroquinolones. We are the only country that has initiated that they can't be used, that has given us a very, very favourable resistance profile."


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  • In related news, a study reported in the British Medical Journal, Occupational & Environmental Medicine has found that the majority of 22 industrial farm workers are carrying livestock-associated, multidrug-resistant staph into local communities for weeks at a time. "Among the [22 people tested], 10 workers carried antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria in their noses for up to four days. Another six workers were intermittent carriers of the bacteria. The 10 workers found to carry the bacteria persistently had strains associated with livestock that were resistant to multiple drugs, and one also carried MRSA. Three more of the workers tested positive for strains of S. aureus that were not resistant to antibiotics. So in total, 86 percent of the workers in the study carried the S. aureus bacteria, compared with about one-third of the population at large, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

    “This study, while small, is important because it shows the persistence of this bacteria for the first time in the U.S. setting,” Dr. Heaney, (one of the researchers) said. “If workers continue to carry it over a period of days, they are going to be interacting with their families and in their communities, and the question for public health officials then is whether they pose any greater risk.”


  • You copied above this sentence:-

    ''If ( farm ) workers continue to carry it over a period of days, they are going to be interacting with their families and in their communities.''

    So I go to a pub in a village in a farming community and this man sneezes over me...

    Obviously a rare event, but the potential for disaster is there.....


  • Exactly. While the bacteria strains are adapted to living in pigs rather than humans, there's a chance that some mutations may make the transition and quickly become uncontrollable - particularly in immune compromised individuals like us. Not a good outcome with antibiotic resistant strains. The time that these strains survived in healthy individuals is not very reassuring...

  • 'The Australian federal government recently announced a national plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance with an approach encompassing the health and agriculture sectors.

    Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoans) evolve to survive exposure to antimicrobials. Antibiotic resistance and so-called “superbugs” relate to bacteria and most frequently make the headlines, but antimicrobial resistance includes resistance to all antimicrobial agents, and not just those used in medicine.

    The plan to deal with antimicrobial resistance, which has been described as one of the major threats to population health in the 21st century, was a joint initiative between health and agriculture ministers. They referred to this marriage as “one health”.'

    Why the health and agriculture sectors need to work together to stop antibiotic resistance:


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