Extensive antibiotics use creating public health crisis
fleischwirtschaft.com — CANADA, Calgary
Citing an overabundance in the use of antibiotics by the agriculture and aquaculture industries that poses a threat to public health, economics professor Aidan Hollis has proposed a solution in the form of user fees on the non-human use of antibiotics.
In a newly released paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Hollis and co-author Ziana Ahmed state that in the US 80% of the antibiotics in the country are consumed in agriculture and aquaculture for the purpose of increasing food production.
This flood of antibiotics released into the environment – sprayed on fruit trees and fed to the likes of livestock, poultry and salmon, among other uses – has led bacteria to evolve, Hollis writes. Mounting evidence cited in the journal shows resistant pathogens are emerging in the wake of this veritable flood of antibiotics – resulting in an increase in bacteria that is immune to available treatments. If the problem is left unchecked, this will create a health crisis on a global scale, Hollis says.
Hollis suggest that the predicament could be greatly alleviated by imposing a user fee on the non-human uses of antibiotics, similar to the way in which logging companies pay stumpage fees and oil companies pay royalties. While banning the use of antibiotics in food production is challenging, establishing a user fee makes good sense, according to Hollis.
Such a practice would deter the low-value use of antibiotics, with higher costs encouraging farmers to improve their animal management methods and to adopt better substitutes for the drugs, such as vaccinations.
Hollis also suggests that an international treaty could ideally be imposed. "Resistant bacteria do not respect national borders," he says. He adds that such a treaty might have a fair chance of attaining international compliance, as governments tend to be motivated by revenue collection. Hollis notes that in the U.S., a move has been made to control the non-human use of antibiotics, with the FDA recently seeking voluntary limits on the use of antibiotics for animal growth promotion on farms.