As Europe and the US face up to the menace of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, UK farmers have dramatically increased their use of the drugs most likely to cause these lethal strains.
The use of modern antibiotics on British farms has risen dramatically in the past decade, fuelling the development of resistant organisms and weakening the power of human medicine to cure disease.
Three classes of antibiotics rated as "critically important in human medicine" by the World Health Organisation – cephalosporins, fluouroquinolones and macrolides – have increased in use by up to eightfold in the animal population over the past decade. Over the same period, livestock numbers have fallen, by 27 per cent in the case of pigs, 10 per cent for cattle and 11 per cent for poultry.
Experts say intensive farming, with thousands of animals reared in cramped conditions driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains, means infections spread faster and the need for antibiotics is greater. The widespread use of antibiotics in livestock farming is recognised as a major contributor to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Last month British scientists identified a new type of MRSA in milk, the first time the resistant organism had been found in farm animals in the UK. Although the superbug is killed by pasteurisation, there are fears it could spread from cattle to humans.
Source - Independent