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Less antibiotic use in food animals leads to less drug resistance in people, study shows

Australia's policy of restricting antibiotic use in food-producing animals may be linked with lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria found in its citizens, according to an article in the May 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

Campylobacter jejuni is a leading bacterial cause of foodborne illness in industrialized countries. Drug resistance can make Campylobacter infections difficult for physicians to treat, and can result in longer bouts of diarrhea and a higher risk of serious or even fatal illness. Bacterial resistance to drugs is generally attributed to inappropriate prescribing or overuse of antibiotics.

An Australian solution to the drug resistance problem has been to prohibit the use of certain antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, in food animals such as poultry. Such a policy puts Australia in a relatively unique position, since its animal and food production levels are comparable to those of other industrialized nations, but it has avoided using the antibiotics that have been standard in the other countries' food animal production.

To evaluate whether the country's restrictive antibiotic policy has affected bacterial drug resistance, Australian researchers examined C. jejuni isolates collected from 585 patients in five Australian states. None of the patients had received fluoroquinolone treatment within the month prior to becoming ill. The researchers discovered that only 2 percent of the locally acquired Campylobacter isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin, a type of fluoroquinolone. Countries that allow fluoroquinolone use in animals may have a drug resistance prevalence of up to 29 percent. Ciprofloxacin can be used to treat severe Campylobacter disease, so a low level of bacterial drug resistance should lead to better treatment efficacy.

"There are different causes that lead to bacterial antibiotic resistance, and use of antibiotics in food animals is only one of the multiple causes," said
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Source:Infectious Diseases Society of America


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