Antibiotic resistant bacteria found in UK pigs and people

22 December 2015

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We have for some time been warning that the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture threatens to reverse decades of medical advancement.

Following recent news, that bacteria resistant to a ‘last resort’ antibiotic, colistin, has been found in both pigs and humans in the UK, it would seem our fears are justified.

Emma Rose, Campaigns, Lobbying and Communications Specialist for the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics says: “The news that resistance to the last line drug, colistin, has been found in bacteria from farm animals and humans in the UK is not altogether surprising. Concerning as these findings are, they are merely an indication of what is to come if we continue to routinely dose healthy animals.

“A staggering amount of drugs are used in farming - particularly in intensive systems - and UK farm use of drugs classed as 'critical' for humans is on the rise. The costs of such profligacy are now being felt among us. Things must change, and the window of opportunity is closing fast.”

Factory farmed animals are regularly given antibiotics, including colistin, in their feed and water due to the high risk of disease when large numbers of animals are kept in inhumane, overcrowded conditions. Scientists believe that the resistant bacteria has spread from these intensively reared animals to humans.

UK veterinary and farming sectors have agreed to temporarily limit the use of colistin, but no action has been taken by regulators to stop routine preventative use if the drug.

Coilin Nunan, Scientific Adviser for the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, says: “Despite scientists saying that resistance to this last-resort antibiotic is likely to be spreading from farm animals to humans, it still remains completely legal in the UK and in most EU countries to routinely feed colistin to large groups of intensively farmed animals, even when no disease has been diagnosed in any of the animals.

“We need the Government, the European Commission and regulatory bodies like the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to respond urgently. The routine preventative use in farming of colistin, and all antibiotics important in human medicine, needs to be banned immediately.”

Take action

MEPs on the Committee of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety can help to end the misuse of antibiotics and break the factory farm system. Please ask key Committee members to vote to protect animals, antibiotics and human health.

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