Should doctors be responsible for promoting antibiotic-free foods?

Wednesday, 06 June, 2018

Should doctors be responsible for promoting antibiotic-free foods?

It is well known that overuse and misuse of antibiotic drugs can lead to microbial resistance, but what about agricultural antibiotics?

Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is calling for doctors to lead the way for antibiotic-free foods, similar to how they encourage people to stop smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that agricultural antibiotics are responsible for about 20% of resistant infections in humans, but their role is underestimated. Makary, the lead author of the commentary, said “Multiresistant bacteria represent one of the greatest public health threats in the world.”

He argued that most antibiotics manufactured are used in agriculture, and routine antibiotic use in animal agriculture has caused humans to increase their resistance to infections. This is a public health concern as resistance to antibiotics transforms easily treatable illnesses into long-term infections which can be fatal.

Antibiotics are regularly used in agriculture as growth promoters and to prevent or treat infections. The potential for these resistant bacteria to be transferred to humans has been discussed for years, leading to the World Health Organization (WHO) to urge farmers and the food industry to stop or at least reduce the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. It has also recently strengthened its cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) with the ‘One Health’ approach which aims to address threats associated with interactions between humans, animals and the environment, particularly antimicrobial resistance.

Published in the Journal of Antibiotics, Makary said physicians are uniquely equipped to advocate for the end of routine antibiotic use in animals and educate patients about the benefits of antibiotic-free, USDA-certified organic foods.

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