Antibiotics and resistance ‘two-way street’ between animals & humans


London, April 5

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that, globally, the association between antibiotic consumption and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) between humans and animals is a two-way street'.

The findings, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, reveal that using antibiotics in food-producing animals such as cattle, pigs and chickens is associated with AMR in humans and using antibiotics in humans is associated with AMR in animals.

"AMR is a 'wicked problem' as conflicting priorities exist amongst an intricate web of stakeholders," said lead author Kasim Allel, Associate Research Fellow in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

"A robust, cross-disciplinary-and-species approach for AMR surveillance and control, which is not limited to a human-centred perspective, should be embraced among decision-makers and local governments for better planetary health," Allel added.

AMR is a major threat to global health, with resistant bacteria responsible for 1.27 million deaths in 2019.

Incorrect use of antibiotics (which include antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals) is a key driver of the spread of AMR. Rising demands for animal-based food and products, as well as intricate and interlinked socioeconomic and environmental factors, are also highly influential.

The study also found that despite recording low levels of antibiotic consumption, low- and middle-income countries, notably India, Bangladesh and China, had the highest rates of AMR in food-producing animals.

This suggests that antibiotic consumption may be a secondary risk factor to the spread of AMR in certain areas of the world, the team said.

Further, socioeconomic factors, such as income inequality or death rates due to unsafe hygiene practices or heart problems also increased rates of AMR in humans.

The researchers suggested that reducing antibiotic consumption alone will not be enough to fight the global spread of AMR. Instead, they state that integrated control methods focused on reducing poverty and supporting social development will be needed to prevent the transmission of resistance between humans and animals.

They also emphasise the importance of strengthening surveillance efforts, especially in low-and middle-income countries, and ensuring that livestock surveillance for AMR in particular, mirrors surveillance in humans.

"Going forward, we recommend tighter country policies and regulations on antibiotic use and prescription among animals and humans, as well as improved governance, transparency and accountability, particularly among countries with the highest disease burdens," said Laith Yakob, from LSHTM's Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases.


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