ANTIBIOTICS

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are compounds that are produced by one microorganism and can kill or inhibit growth of other microorganisms. This definition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testimony to Congress includes bacteria and parasites as microorganisms killed by antibiotics.

  • Hogs
    • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in hogs. A "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues can exit the animal's system and won't be in the meat.
  • Birds (Chicken and Turkey)
    • Antibiotics may be used to prevent disease and increase feed efficiency.  Before the bird can be slaughtered, a “withdrawal” period is required from the time antibiotics are administered. This ensures that no residues are present in the bird’s system.
  • Cattle
    • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in cattle. A "withdrawal" period is required from the time antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues can exit the animal's system. United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service randomly samples cattle at slaughter and tests for residues.
  • Goats
    • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat diseases in goats. A "withdrawal" period is required from the time most antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues have enough time to exit the animal's system.
  • Lambs
    • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in lambs and hormones may be given to promote efficient growth. A recommended withholding period is required from the time antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so drug residues can exit the animal's system.

What are the FDA approved uses of antibiotics in animals and humans?

Antibiotics can be used in both arenas to treat active infections and to prevent and to control infections in a population after an initial illness or two is seen. For instance, if a student in a college dormitory is sick with meningitis, the other students will be offered a low dose antibiotic to control the spread. If a person has an artificial heart valve, s/he will be given a low dose antibiotic before the dentist does a deep clean to prevent lodging of bacteria on the valve. The difference in approved use between animals and humans is the practice of administering antibiotics to enhance feed efficiency and promote growth in animals raised for food.

The FDA announced this practice will no longer be approved as described in its Guidance 209(1). One of FDA’s key principles in Guidance 209 is to “Limit the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs to those uses that include veterinary oversight/ consultation(2)”. This will limit the use of antibiotics in animals to treating active infections and preventing and controlling infections in a population. The FDA’s Guidance 213(3) and the amended veterinary feed directive(4) further tighten up the use of antibiotic for animal use and increase the level of veterinary oversight. While these guidance documents are voluntary, all manufacturers of these products have agreed to FDA’s requirement for growth promotion and increased veterinary oversight will occur by the end of 2016.

Sources:

Antibiotic resistance is a very complicated topic that is being addressed in both animal agriculture and human medicine. 

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