The Future of Antibiotics and Meat

The Future of Antibiotics and Meat

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1674-3.ch063
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This chapter discusses antibiotic use in the livestock industry and potential ramifications for human health. Antibiotics are routinely administered to food animals, primarily at sub-therapeutic levels. The extensive use of antibiotics in global animal husbandry in quantities greater than used for humans is creating antibiotic resistance. There is evidence that antibiotic resistant organisms emerging in food animals transfer to humans through the food chain, environmental contamination, direct association with animals or through mobile resistant genetic elements resulting in co-resistance to other antibiotics. No new classes of antibiotics have been developed since the 1980s. Intensifying use of existing antibiotics for meat production poses new challenges for treating humans, needs to be taken seriously and dealt with urgently. This chapter argues that reduced meat consumption is an under-considered but essential part in any suite of solutions aimed at preserving the use of antibiotics for human treatment.
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Antibiotic Use

Before we engage with the threats posed by the wide application of antibiotics, it is useful to define some of the terms used in this chapter. This is followed by a brief history of the antibiotic era.


For the layperson, the terminology around the use of antibiotics may be unclear. Antibiotics are defined as substances, which can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria and can be produced by microorganisms or synthetically (but still chemically related to natural versions). Antimicrobials include antibiotics as well as other substances (such as fungicides and disinfectants) that kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. In the medical literature the two terms are used interchangeably.

Antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance is when the targeted bacteria are no longer controlled or killed by the presence of antibiotics but are able to survive and even multiply. In the literature antibacterial or antibiotic resistance (ABR) and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are also used synonymously. In this chapter we refer only to antibiotics and thus use the acronym ABR.

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