A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last Thursday voices concern over the fact that worldwide growing use of antibiotics on livestock will make the animals more resistant to them, and also increase chances for the emergence of deadly pathogens immune to medication.
The research calculates that at current rates, the global use of antibiotics in animals might go up by about 67 percent until 2030, with it doubling in countries like Russia, China, India or Brazil. These estimates are based on current use of antibiotics in livestock and economic projections regarding demand for animal-based products in the future.
The cause for this will be a rise in demand for meat and other animal products in most countries, caused mostly by urbanization and its afferent diet change. This will drive the livestock industry more towards production on large-scale farms, on which antibiotic use is fairly common to avoid apparition of potentially chain killing diseases.
In turn, this high rate of antibiotics use might cause current bacteria and viruses to evolve into more dangerous forms that are resistant to anti-microbial medication, possibly ending in the formation of a super-pathogen that might wipe up livestock by the millions if spread.
Approached by Reuters, study co-author Tim Robinson, a researcher at the International Livestock Research Institute, said that current livestock producers have a short-term approach to combating diseases that might prove disastrous in the long run.
He added that routine use of small antibiotic doses create a perfect context for current bacteria to mutate into medicine-resistant forms. This has already happened in cases such as salmonella and e-coli, and it also makes them more dangerous for humans that get infected.
This is the first study that attempts measurements and predictions related to the use of antibiotics in livestock worldwide, and the results are particularly worrisome in a couple of cases. Asia is a particularly volatile region, with demand for animal products growing up continuously and little to no regulation about use of antimicrobials in livestock. The study reveals the fact that China, for example, might at one point use about a third of the world’s total quantity of antibiotics for livestock alone.