Free Press Journal

Antibiotic use in animals on the rise worldwide



Washington: Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could see a 67 per cent increase by 2030, and nearly double in countries such as India and China, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found. The rise in antibiotic consumption in livestock contributes to the spread of drug-resistant pathogens in both livestock and humans, posing a significant public health threat, according to the study. The study was conducted by Princeton University in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute, Kenya, the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy.

Researchers found that antimicrobial consumption will rise worldwide by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2030 but five countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – will experience a growth of 99 per cent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 per cent growth in their human populations over the same period.

In the US, antibiotic consumption in animals currently represents up to 80 per cent of total antimicrobial sales. Because of the incredible volume involved, this increase in antimicrobial use in animals raises serious concerns about preserving antimicrobial effectiveness in the next decades, the researchers said. Global demand for animal protein is rising dramatically, and antimicrobials are used routinely in modern animal production for disease prevention and as growth promoters. The study focused on cattle, chickens and pigs, and identified the latter two as the main contributors to antibiotic consumption.

“The discovery and development of antibiotics was a major public health revolution of the 20th century,” said senior author Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior research scholar in the Princeton Environmental Institute. “Their effectiveness – and the lives of millions of people around the world – are now in danger due to the increasing global problem of antibiotic resistance, which is being driven by antibiotic consumption,” he said.

The study is based on a limited data set of veterinary-antimicrobials sales from 32 countries. Two thirds, or 66 per cent, of the projected global increase in antimicrobial consumption is due to the growing number of animals raised for food production, researchers said. The remaining third is attributable to a shift in farming practices, with a larger proportion of animals projected to be raised in “intensive farming systems,” or factory farms, they said.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.