Mounting evidence proves that antibiotic overuse in animal
agriculture - especially use in healthy animals - poses
a significant threat to public health. Keep Antibiotics
Working: The Campaign to End Antibiotic Overuse maintains
Library of this evidence. Some of the more
important studies are highlighted in Key
Scientific Evidence. You may also want to read the
fact sheet on the latest science.
While public health concerns have focused on antibiotics
given to non-sick animals, a related problem is the inappropriate
use of critical human medicines to treat sick animals. Fluoroquinolone
antibiotics, for example, were used to treat respiratory
disease in flocks of poultry. But that use was compromising
fluoroquinolones' effectiveness for treating people suffering
from severe cases of food poisoning, according to government
experts. Public health concerns led the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration to ban the use of fluoroquinolones
in poultry. For more detailed information, visit Fluoroquinolones:
A (slow) success story.
Another case of critical human medicines being used to treat sick animals involves cefquinome, a cattle drug given herd-wide to treat respiratory illness. Unfortunately, such indiscriminate usage threatens the effectiveness of cephalosporins in human medicine, a reason why KAW opposed the approval of cefquinome for use in cattle. Read more at Cefquinome: Unnecessary Risks
In direct contrast to the case of fluoroquinolones, there has been negligible government action
to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in healthy
animals in the U.S. to date. Antibiotics are given to non-sick
animals both to promote faster growth on less feed, and
to compensate for stress and deficient sanitation in the
crowded conditions under which such animals are raised.
Read more about U.S. Government
Involvement on the issue of antibiotic use in animal
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a serious bacterial infection that is resistant to some of the most important and commonly used antibiotics in human medicine. Most people now know that hospitals are prominent sources of MRSA infections, but fewer people are aware of the risks that animal production carries for MRSA. KAW has researched the links between MRSA and pig farming, which has been demonstrated in both Europe and Canada, and currently calls for research in the United States to determine the extent of the problem here. Read more about MRSA and Animal Agriculture.
The European Experience with antibiotic use in agriculture has differed markedly. The European Union currently bans six classes of antibiotics from being used as growth promoters, while Sweden has banned all antibiotic growth promoters since 1986 and Denmark since the late 1990s. Meat producers continue to thrive in these countries. See our factsheet, Myths and Facts about Denmark's Growth Promoter Ban and Its Implications for the US.
Keep Antibiotics Working opposes the use of antibiotics in healthy animals, especially those important to human medicine. We also believe some antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones, are simply too important for curing human illness to allow the misuse or overuse in food animals that threatens their effectiveness. Find out Where Other Groups Stand on antibitiotic overuse in agriculture.