The rise in the number of antibiotic resistant infections in humans and their pets is a growing public health concern. Excessive and unnecessary exposure to antibiotics can increase your risk (and your pet’s risk) of these potentially deadly infections. An often unrecognized source of antibiotic exposure is from agricultural products and wastewater contamination.
Antibiotic resistance is a risk for humans and their pets, because antibiotic-resistant bacteria can give rise to infections that do not respond to treatment with most antibiotics. The World Health Organization states that antibiotic resistance is “putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals. Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill.”
Antibiotic resistance is resistance of a microorganism to an antibiotic drug that was previously effective for treating infections caused by that microorganism. The term antimicrobial can be substituted for antibiotic, to encompass a broader range of infections and microbes (eg, parasites, viruses, fungi), which have seen a similar increase in resistance. While the development of resistant strains can occur naturally, it can be accelerated by unnecessary and often unintended exposure to antibiotics. Most people are aware that antibiotic overprescribing can lead to antibiotic resistance, however, there are two other important ways in which we and our pets are needlessly exposed to antibiotics. These are the agricultural use of antibiotics and contamination of wastewater during pharmaceutical manufacturing.
In the US, animals raised for food are typically fed low doses of antibiotics. In fact, 80% of the antibiotics used in the US are used in animals being raised for food! The US Food and Drug Administration acknowledges that “antibiotic use in animals contributes to the emergence of resistant microorganisms that can affect people.”
Antibiotic contaminated wastewater from drug manufacturing facilities and from improperly discarded antibiotics can find its way onto crop fields and into our drinking water. E coli bacteria resistant to multiple drugs has even been found in the Arctic. This resistant bacteria was carried there by migrating birds.
Excessive and unnecessary exposure to antibiotics can increase your risk (and your pet’s risk) of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection. One way you can reduce your exposure to antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria is to avoid exposure to food products at high risk of carrying antibiotics or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Seek out reliable sources of food from sources that do not use antibiotics in any form or in any stage. This can be done by purchasing organic meat, dairy, and produce, by growing your own ‘clean’ food, or by purchasing from reliable local farmers who follow organic standards.