Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

'Antibiotic Apocalypse' as Livestock Is Force-Fed 80% of Prescribed Antibiotics Worldwide

Health + Wellness

By Sophie Linden

A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) describes the dangers humanity faces from overprescription of critical infection-fighting drugs, which has led to both superbugs and antibiotics' dwindling efficacy, making humans vulnerable to infections doctors otherwise regarded as benign. While overprescription in humans is a viable issue, recent statements from WHO express heightened concern over the ramifications from their misuse in the meat industry.


Stop Using Antibiotics in Healthy Animals to Prevent the Spread of Antibiotic Resistance is the title of WHO's latest press release, reiterating a message that has been clear for decades. The current culture of force-feeding antibiotics to livestock presents a danger to millions of humans. At present, animals used for livestock are fed around 80 percent of prescribed antibiotics worldwide. The measure has been perpetuated by the low cost of the medicines, as well as antibiotics' proven ability to accelerate growth and weight gain in livestock, effectively speeding up the process of food production. In 2015, the U.S. used 34.3 million pounds of antibiotics on animals. The result is antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals and humans through food and airborne pathogens.

At present, 700,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and it is predicted that this number could increase to 10 million by 2050, making low-risk operations like hip replacements and treatable urinary tract infections a new health crisis. The Guardian called the collapse an "antibiotic apocalypse," wherein the world is set to face the same surgical risks it did before 1928, when penicillin was discovered. Essentially a century's worth of medical advances could be reversed.

As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, confirmed, "A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak." This is due in part to a lack of replacement therapies. In its statement, WHO warns that "there are very few promising options in the research pipeline." The Guardian pointed out that this is precipitated by the "failure of pharmaceutical companies to investigate and develop new sources of general medicines for the future." Perhaps, because what's broken is still paying off.

The threat of antibiotic overprescription has been clear since the 1960s, according to Tom Philpott, co-author of Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. But it wasn't until this past January that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made any kind of regulatory change to address the escalating crisis, asking that the livestock industry no longer use antibiotics to accelerate the growth of animals. However, the language used by the FDA has left an opening for the agriculture industry to continue its use of antibiotic treatments, allowing them to be prescribed and used as preventative medicine—treating antibiotics as prophylactics, with plenty of room for indiscretion.

While it is a highly regarded resource, WHO is not a regulatory body, and any reform must happen at the level of government. The troubling lack of concern from the federal government leaves little hope that there will be any change to FDA standards. Given the situation, vegan diets may be one of the main ways to resist the increasing use of antibiotics in livestock, protecting both animal rights and our own immunity to pathogens.

Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less