The prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria is on the rise and findings of a new study have shown that the use of antibiotics in farm animals contributes to this global problem.
In a new study, which was published in the journal mBio on April 12, James Tiedje, from the Michigan State University, and colleagues studied large-scale swine farms in China and another population of pigs in the US and found that multidrug resistant bacteria tend to be the norm in large swine farms where antibiotics are used in the animals' feed to promote growth and prevent diseases.
Experts have explained that extensive use of antibiotics gave rise to resistance because the bacteria that the drugs intended to kill have adapted to them which makes the treatment less effective.
The researcher said that the farms in China involved in the study are located close to large cities. Given that the use of antibiotics is widespread and antibiotic resistance can be transmitted between bacteria, the situation calls for a need to control antibiotic resistance in the pigs to minimize the risk to people.
"Our results clearly show the diversity of resistance genes on swine farms and that many genes likely originated from the same source. We also showed the linkage of resistance genes to each other as well as genes that enable them to be clustered in one bacteria or shared among bacteria," Tiedje said.
Tiedje said that antibiotic resistance is not an isolated issue in China because multidrug resistance is just one plane ride away.
In a statement released in November, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged antibiotic resistance as a global issue.
"The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said. "It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world."
The U.S. already faces challenges related to superbugs. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that at least 2 million Americans get infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria per year and at least 23,000 people die annually as a result of these infections.
A CDC study has also found that antibiotic resistant bacteria are responsible for more than one in seven infections in some U.S. hospitals prompting the health agency to urge healthcare professionals to lead the fight against hospital-related infections.
Another study from researchers in the UK also found that commonly used antibiotics no longer works in half of the children, which could render these drugs ineffective in the future.