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Increasing Use of Antibiotics by Poultry Farmers Linked to Resistant Bacteria

February 8, 2016

Industry figures revealed in a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), show that UK poultry farmers have increased their use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics by 59% in the last 12 months. Fluoroquinolone’s were banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2005 after resistance to the drugs was discovered in campylobacter samples in poultry flocks.

Chief scientist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Professor Mike Catchpole said “There are lines of evidence that strongly suggest that the use of antimicrobials [which include antibiotics] in food-producing animals not only results in the occurrence of resistant bacteria in the exposed food-producing animals but also in humans. Treating infections due to resistant bacteria is a challenge: antimicrobials commonly used are no longer effective and doctors have to choose other antimicrobials. This may delay getting the right treatment to patients and may result in complications.”

In 2013, an ECDC study found that 62% of poultry infected with campylobacter were carrying a resistant strain of the bacteria. Fluoroquinolone antibiotics were first developed in the 1970’s and introduced to human medicine a decade later; the drugs are generally used for food borne illnesses and food poisoning. Concerns over the excessive use of the antibiotic on farms was first raised in 1998 when a House of Lords committee called on the poultry industry to reduce fluoroquinolone usage to prevent resistance strains of bacteria developing.