Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some experts remain skeptical that new rules for antibiotics in animals will reduce use

New federal guidelines for use of antibiotics in animals, which take effect Jan. 1, may not reduce their use, reports Amy Mayer of Iowa Public Radio after interviewing farmers and agriculture experts.

Under the new rules, "all antibiotics important for human health" must be obtained with written permission from a veterinarian, "similar to a prescription," Mayer notes. "In the past, farmers could buy feed containing antibiotics at the local feed store without even consulting a vet. Now, they can't." One rule requires such vets to visit the farm and be familiar with its operations.

"Some public health officials, doctors and politicians have questioned whether the rules will bring about any meaningful changes," Mayer reports, quoting James Johnson, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Minnesota: "I frankly am skeptical that we're going to see any drop in amount of drug used or any big shift in which particular drugs are used."

The rules are aimed at stemming the trend of bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics. "It's very clear that these high-antibiotic use, intensive animal operations are great breeding grounds for resistant bacteria," Johnson told Mayer, who adds: "Johnson also recognizes agriculture's argument that there's limited data definitively linking on-farm antibiotic use to resistant infections in humans. The FDA declined to explain just how its new rules will reduce antibiotic resistance. But, in a written statement, told Iowa Public Radio that it's expanding its data collection on the sale and distribution of antibiotics in hopes of better studying the link between farm use and resistance."

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