Humans at risk from antibiotics in feedstuffs

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The Independent Online
FARMERS who feed antibiotics to livestock are unwittingly increasing the risks of spreading drug-resistant bacteria among humans.

Scientists have found that resistance to antibiotics - the only effective drugs against most bacterial illnesses - has passed between microbes that live in farm livestock and bacteria living in the human gut.

It is the first hard evidence for the transfer of antibiotic-resistance between farm livestock and humans and will add to demands for stricter controls over the use of antibiotics as feed supplements to make animals grow faster.

Strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are an increasing problem in hospitals where some microbes - notably 'super staph' bacteria - have been found to resist a range of antibiotics.

A research team led by Abigail Salyers, a molecular biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, looked at resistance to tetracycline, an antibiotic popular with American farmers because it increases weight gain in pigs, chickens and fish and allows more animals to be housed in a smaller space.