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Antibiotics fed to animals undo positive campaign

27 May 2005

Antibiotics fed to animals undo positive Pharmac campaign

Antibiotic resistance will continue to grow alarmingly until the Government bans the continuous feeding to animals of antibiotics significant to human medicine, Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

While applauding Pharmac's 'Wise Use of Antibiotics' campaign, she said its efforts to reduce human over-use of antibiotics is being severely undermined by the fact that more than 100 tonnes of antibiotics, many from the same group used in human medicine, are being fed indiscriminately to animals as a way to keep them disease-free in unhealthy factory conditions.

"The 'Wise Use of Antibiotics' concept needs to be urgently extended to agriculture, where the indiscriminate feeding of antibiotics to animals is contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

"This irresponsible farming practice is jeopardising the greatest medical advance of the Twentieth Century. With scientists warning that the growing resistance to antibiotics is threatening our ability to treat human diseases, the Government's failure to ban the feeding of important human antibiotics to animals is incomprehensible and is putting the health of all New Zealanders at risk."

Ms Kedgley said she was particularly concerned that resistance to the important antibiotic Erythromycin had continued to increase over the past decade, with resistance in the common pneumococcal bacteria as high as 21 percent.

"Erythromycin is a reserve antibiotic for the treatment of MRSA and it is worrying that resistance to it in this superbug has increased from 31.5 percent to 43.5 percent in the past decade. The Government's own Animal Remedies Board warned it four years ago that the feeding of Macrolide antibiotics, which include Erythromycin, to animals was producing resistance to it in bacteria.

"Despite this clear warning, the Government has done nothing, and the feeding of the Macrolide antibiotics to animals had continued to skyrocket.

"The Government knows that resistance to this important antibiotic is growing rapidly and that the feeding of Macrolides to animals is increasing the spread of resistance, yet it is refusing to stop its use in agriculture.

"It is incomprehensible. The only explanation is that the Government is putting the short-term profitability of the poultry industry ahead of the public health of New Zealanders."


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