FDA's New Stance on Antibiotics Use Could Be Too Little, Too Late

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Because drug resistance is an increasing problem, the FDA has finally decided to curb the use of some antibiotics in farm animals.

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The FDA has decided to curb the use of certain antibiotics in farm animals and reserve them for human use. The move is an attempt to reduce the growing resistance of bacteria to common antibiotics and goes into effect April 5, though it will take time to determine how effective the curb is.

Drug resistance in bacteria has been an increasing problem in recent years and has been linked to meat in the past. Food animals are often administered antibiotics routinely as a preventative measure, since they often live in tight quarters where diseases can spread quickly. But the overuse of antibiotics can cause bacteria to evolve resistance to the drugs, which ultimately renders them ineffective, in both animals and humans.

Cephalosporins are often used in people to treat everything from skin and soft tissue infections to urinary tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and pneumonia. Now, the FDA says that cephalosporins will be reserved for human use, and not permitted in cattle, swine, chicken, or turkeys, except for special circumstances. The drugs will not be used in the prevention of disease in farm animals, but veterinarians will still be able to prescribe it for these species in certain cases.

The current order does not involve an older relative of the drug, called cephapirin (Cefadyl), since this version is not believed to be linked to antibiotic resistance. In 2008, the FDA had moved to ban cephalosporins from farm animal use across the board, but retracted the decision before it went into effect.

"We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals," said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for Foods. The FDA has allowed a comment period on the cephalosporin act, which will extend from now until March 6, and will no doubt generate many responses from the farm animal industry and others interested in the new development.

Image: Teerawut/Shutterstock.


This article originally appeared on TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com, an Atlantic partner site.

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Alice G. Walton, PhD, is a health journalist and an editor at The Doctor Will See You Now.

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