Which antibiotics do you take today? How many times daily? For how long? These questions come easily if someone needs an antibiotic treatment to address a health issue. So, when a drug course finishes, we can say that a person is free from antibiotics. Nevertheless, the reality is far from this statement. Believe it or not, you consume antibiotics every single day, especially if you are a meat eater.
Antibiotics have always had a lifesaver role ever since they appeared. This enabled them to obtain good reputation in the population, due to their superpower. But, since then until now many voices have appeared against their use. Concretely against their general overuse. On top of that, many more people have expressed strong opposition to the use of antibiotics in the farming industry. The shocking numbers speak loudly and show how insane and unhealthy the whole farming process is.
Yes. You “ingest” antibiotics without any control or unknowingly on a regular basis. And yes, you still consume these medicines even without visiting your GP and without being prescribed any antibiotics by your doctor. Unfortunately, these drugs are in your food in abundant quantities. In fact, tones of them.
According to the study (1) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, the world uses about 63,000 tons of antibiotics each year to raise cows, chickens and pigs. It is roughly twice the amount of all antibiotics that doctors prescribe to humans globally. In order words, factory farming use more antibiotics than any health care system in the world. Surprisingly, these drugs are not administered to cure illnesses in animals. Rather, they have an unhealthy purpose: to promote growth or prevent diseases that so often appear as a result from keeping animals in unsanitary conditions.
The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a lobby group for EU-wide reduction in the use of antibiotics in farming, has recently published a report with a bittersweet taste (2). The study reveals that the sale of antibiotics to US farms increased from 5,559 tons in 2017 to 6,036 tonnes in 2018, 9% rise. Bad news.
Conversely, farm drugs sales in the UK dropped by 9%, from 248 to 226 tonnes over the same period. However, this positive trend may change in Britain after Brexit, as the UK enters into trade negotiations with US. At the moment, the European Union allows much lower antibiotic use in farming. It’s not great either, but it’s surely better than in America. But, this subject requires more space in other post.
These “lifesaver” drugs can easily turn into useless weapons. An overuse of antibiotics has a high risk, it creates superbugs or bacteria that display antibiotic resistance. As people consume directly (prescription) or indirectly (food) thousands of “healthy” medicines, their body slowly becomes resistant to these drugs or treatments. A simple act of taking antibiotics doesn’t appear to be safe any longer. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that more than 700.000 people die every year because of antibiotic resistance (3). In this scenario, WHO has warned that the antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest global threats to health, security, and development.
Will drug resistance become a new pandemic in the near future? It’s too early to guess, but prevention should be taken in consideration as soon as possible. Prevention may save lives.