Is Antibiotic Use in Livestock a Threat to Human Health?
Education and Advocacy Antibiotic use in livestock may be causing more problems than it's solving.
Over the past decade, there has been a growing concern worldwide about the overuse of antibiotics and the effect it has on creating antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This phenomenon occurs when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics in both medicine and animal farming is thought to contribute to this resistance. It’s an issue of growing concern because the fear is that bacteria will become increasingly difficult to combat and could evolve into “super bugs” — powerful bacteria that cause severe, life-threatening illness.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that AMR is a serious global threat. While there is some debate among scientists, many feel that antibiotic use in farm animals raised for human consumption plays a key role in increasing antimicrobial resistance in humans. In fact, in 2017 the WHO recommended that “ farmers and the food industry [should] stop using antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals.”
Increasing food and animal safety
Prevtec Microbia, a Canadian biotechnology company that develops vaccines and other technologies for livestock health, also takes the threat of AMR seriously and hopes to lessen the farming industry’s reliance on antibiotics.
“The vaccines we make for farm animals rely on biological technologies rather than antibiotics,” explains Michel Fortin, President and CEO of Prevtec Microbia. “I totally support the WHO recommendation, considering antibiotic resistance as a risk for humans. It’s the right thing to do for the planet.”
Many meat producers and government organizations see the value of an antibiotic-free solution to meat management. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of pigs in Canada are vaccinated with Prevtec Microbia vaccines, and the company has just announced that five million doses of its vaccine Coliprotec® F4/F18 have been sold to the European Union for use in pig farming. “What also makes Coliprotec special is that the vaccine is administered to the piglets through drinking water. So, it’s not an injection, which is less stressful for the animals and better for animal health overall,” says Fortin. “It’s part of a growing trend that supports food safety and animal wellness.”
Prevtec Microbia’s overall goal is to prevent disease in livestock, contributing to a reduction in the farming industry’s reliance on antibiotics. “By working with veterinarians, producers and regulatory authorities,” he says, “we want to contribute to the availability of good quality, safe products that are affordable and sustainable.”