No link found between antibiotic use in farm animals and resistance in people

September 1, 2016

Systematic review of campylobacteriosis studies leads to more questions than answers.

A team of scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and the Charleston VA Medical Center Research Service recently reviewed published literature for evidence of a relationship between antibiotic use in agricultural animals and drug-resistant foodborne Campylobacter infections in people, states a news release from MUSC.  

Conducted by veterinary and nutrition scientists and an infectious disease physician, the study reviewed 195 articles published in the United States, Canada and Denmark in the past five years. Animals included in the reviewed studies were chicken, turkeys, pigs, beef cattle and dairy cows.

While the overall prevalence of Campylobacter and drug resistance found in the systematic review aligns with reports from the National Antimicrobacterial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), the research team found no conclusive evidence of a definitive link between use of antibiotics in food animals and emergence of drug-resistant Campylobacter, according to the release.

The study abstract states, “Recent literature confirms that on farm antibiotic selection pressure can increase colonization of animals with drug-resistant Campylobacter spp. but is inadequately detailed to establish a causal relationship between use of antimicrobials in agricultural animals and prevalence of drug-resistant foodborne campylobacteriosis in humans.”

As the controversy surrounding the use of antibiotics in food animals continues, so does the need for research, officials say.

“The agriculture community recognizes that there is more that can be done to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics, which is the goal of both the animal and human health communities, says Richard A. Carnevale, VMD, vice president for regulatory, scientific and international affairs at the Animal Health Institute (AHI), which funded the study. “By the end of the year, the agriculture community will be in full compliance with the FDA mandates-Guidances 209 and 213-which eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion purposes and requires veterinary approval for all remaining uses in feed through the Veterinary Feed Directive.”