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A study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University shows that the overuse of antibiotics in pig farm is a major contributor to the global expansion of the so-called ‘superbugs,’ or bacteria that are resistant to a wide range of antibiotics.
James Tiedje,the lead author of the study who teaches molecular genetics at Michigan State University, explained that antibacterial disinfectants and antibiotics added to animal feed may boost the prevalence of superbugs.
Study authors based their findings on data collected from Chinese swine farms. Farmers usually resort to antibiotics to ensure that livestock stay healthy and grow faster. But scientists found that those farms were plagued by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Tiedje also explained that it is not easy to track the source of antibiotic resistance because the drugs are so widely spread and resistance gets transmitted from one microorganism to another.
Tiedje’s team found that the surveyed farms were located in the vicinity of large urban areas. So, keeping pigs’ antibiotic resistance in check was crucial to prevent people from getting hard-to-treat infections.
Researchers noted that antibiotic resistance is not an isolated issue. It is a global problem that is growing especially in countries that abuse antibiotics. For instance, India currently faces an epidemic of multidrug-resistant bugs since doctors have prescribed antibiotics for all sorts of ailments for years.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal mBio.
Experts explained that antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs, emerge when the bacteria were exposed for so long to antibiotics that they developed resistance and they became harder to kill.
In the U.S., more than 2 million people get an infection caused by superbugs and 23,000 people are killed by these bacteria every year, a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
About half of antibiotics manufactured worldwide are used on livestock to promote quicker growth and prevent diseases. But the overuse of antibiotics spur new, stronger generations of drug-resistant bacteria in animals which are later transmitted to humans through food, direct contact with sick animals, and contaminated water and soil.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned that antibiotic overuse could lead to infections that are resistant to most drugs so that simple influenza could start killing whole populationa again like it did before the discovery of antibiotics.
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