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Antibiotic Resistance in the Animal Husbandry Sector

Updated on August 13, 2020
Drew Agravante profile image

Drew is a pharmacist, a novelist, a blogger, and a social media copywriter. He keeps his creative juices flowing through music and reading.

Pigs are one of the most common farm animals who is usually given with antibiotics.
Pigs are one of the most common farm animals who is usually given with antibiotics. | Source

What is Antibiotic Resistance?

Bacterial organisms existed long before humans. They are a product of continuous evolution. It's normal for them to develop their defense mechanisms against threats. Yes, just like humans. For bacteria, it's called antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is the capacity of bacteria to resist drugs used to treat them. It occurs when bacteria adapt, change, or evolve their normal response to antibiotics. Thus, rendering medications for infection ineffective.

A common cause of antibiotic resistance is negligence. This includes abuse, misuse, and unnecessary use. A good example is when physicians give antibiotics for the flu. Patients suffering from flu do not need any antibiotics. This misconception is one of the causes of antibiotic resistance.

Aside from the known abuse of antibiotic prescribing in humans. The use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is also showing signs of misuse and abuse.

World Health Organization in 2017 reported an increase in resistant bacteria on farms. In some nations, about 80% of the total antibiotic consumption occurs in the animal sector. Mostly for growth promotion in animals.

It's proof of the ever-growing threat of antibiotic resistance. Not only in humans but also in animals.

MRSA Testing through Oxacillin
MRSA Testing through Oxacillin | Source

Antibiotic Resistance in Animal Farms

Did you ever consider the possibility of acquiring a severe infection from farms? You might be questioning yourselves, that such thing will not happen right?

Unfortunately, as of current trends of antibiotic resistance all around the globe. Farm animals given with antibiotics own the risk of transmitting antibiotic-resistant organisms. They can send it through different modes of transmission.

In 2012, microbiologist Lance Prince. The director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University conducted a study. It showed that more than 90% of Escherichia coli in pigs raised on conventional farms are resistant to tetracycline. And about 71% of E. Coli in pigs raised on farms without antibiotics is also resistant.

They also trace the evolutionary origins of the livestock-associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA). They discovered that LA-MRSA was being shared among pigs and their farmers in Europe and the United States. Researchers tested it by sequencing the whole genomes of 88 diverse MRSA samples.

The study showed that MRSA strain started in farmers. Then the bacteria jumped into livestock. Thus, the acquired resistance to methicillin and tetracycline spread faster. Yep, bad news for you and me.

The Dangers of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one of the resistant strains found on farms. MRSA causes severe diseases that empty both the pockets of the patients and the government.

It causes hard to treat local skin infections in the form of wound infection, boils, and sores. It also causes severe bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and urinary infections in some cases. Aside from these, it can also infect post-operative patients with surgical wounds.

Infections caused by these bacteria result in longer hospital stays and even death. Antibiotic drugs use to treat these infections are also costly. Such antibiotics also tend to have possible adverse effects, compromising the patient's health.

The animal-to-human transfer of resistant-bacteria infections.
The animal-to-human transfer of resistant-bacteria infections. | Source

How can Antibiotic Resistance in Animal be Transmitted?

At first, researchers believed that transmission of resistance is only through parent-offspring transfer. But now, new studies show that it also evolves through affecting the DNA of the bacterial genome. It then allows the transfer of resistance from one bacterial species to another. Causing the rise of current cases of antibiotic-resistance in farms.

Antibiotic Resistance can be passed between animals and humans in either way. There are various mode of transfer of antibiotic resistance in the animal sector such as;

1. Direct contact with antibiotic-resistant organisms carrying animals or humans.

2. Improper handling of animal waste resulting in an airborne transfer of resistant bacteria.

3. Eating improperly handled meat, fish, poultry, and beef infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

4. Transmission via farm products produced through contaminated water or soil.

Looming World Health Crisis

Don't be mistaken. Antibiotic resistance is happening. It's one of the rising threats to humanity.

In 2019, the US Centers for Control and Prevention presented a staggering revelation. It reported that more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections cases happen each year. And more than 35,000 people die in the U.S alone as a result.

UN Ad hoc Inter-agency Coordinating Group also revealed a stunning estimate. Resistant bacteria already causes at least 700,000 deaths every year worldwide. And this number is predicted to rise dramatically if radical actions are not taken. Antibiotic resistance has become one of the greatest threats to global health.

It is also predicted that drug-resistant diseases by 2050, could cause 10 million deaths each year. It will gobble up more than $77 trillion in damages by the same year. Enough to swing the global economy into another catastrophic global financial crisis.

Individuals who suffer from it may experience more severe illness. Longer hospitalization and even death are within the possibilities. These types of infections are hard and costly to treat.

As of now, there is currently a need for harder enforcement on the proper use of antibiotics in farms. Animal farms must follow strict protocols for antibiotic use.

All nations must also develop stricter guidelines for antibiotic use in animals. Negligence must not be tolerated for the protection of everyone's health.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

The subtitle says it all. Preventing antibiotic resistance is still better. After all, no one wants to take the bitter pill if prevention is possible.

Fighting against antibiotic resistance is not a one-man job. It is rather a collective issue for every one of us, especially for those who are working in animal farms.

These are easy ways to avoid farm infections cause by MRSA and other bacteria on farms. These are established guidelines supported by various concerned organizations in the United Kingdom and the United States.

1. Wash Your Hand Regularly With Soap

Nothing beats classic hand washing in warding away both disease and bacteria. Of course, it is also important to do it properly. Scrub those nooks and crannies, and then dry your hand with a disposable paper towel.

Make this simple step a habit especially when you're about to eat, smoke, or leaving the farm. I do not recommend using alcohol and hand gels. It is less effective if your hands are wet and dirty after the sweaty farm duty.

2. Cuts, Grazes, or Open Wounds - Don’t Ignore It

Immediately disinfect it to avoid making it a breeding ground of resistant bacteria. It's a red flag especially if you are working with farm animals. It is ideal to use a waterproof dressing to decrease the chances of pesky infections.

3. Wear Protective Clothing When Taking Care of Farm Animals

A good old protective attire will both protect you and your lovely farm animals. It will lessen the likelihood of unwelcomed transmission of bacteria. It is also advisable to take a shower before and after going into the farm.

4. Wash-Down All Work Clothes and Protective Clothing

Of course, wash those sweaty protective gear. Don’t mix it with normal clothes. Hygiene is key. Avoid shaking the clothes lest it spreads bacteria around. Don’t reuse unless sterilized or washed for your safety. No one wants it smelly.

5. Farmhouses Should Have Shoes or Boots Dedicated to Dealing With Livestock

No one wants to bring those smelly poos and bacteria back home. Make sure to wash, clean, and disinfect it regularly. Remember to change your footwear before leaving the premises. If possible, sterilize it.

6. Get Checked Before Undergoing Surgery or Treatment

If you're dealing with farm animals fed or treated with antibiotics. Don’t forget to inform your doctor or dentist before undergoing any operation. In some cases, their sound advice may just save your life.

An MRSA test to confirm your condition will be carried out first for your good. It helps them to diagnose any infection that might jeopardize your recovery. If you’re a farmworker, your family also needs to get those regular check-ups to assure that they’re also safe.

Do you know that Antibiotic Resistance is also present in farms?

See results

Antibiotic Resistance Related Video


  1. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in Pigs and Farm Workers on Conventional and Antibiotic-Free Swine Farms in the USA.Tara C. Smith et al. in PLOS ONE, Vol. 8, No. 5, Article No. e63704; May 7, 2013.
  2. Prevalence of Antibiotic-Resistant E. coli in Retail Chicken: Comparing Conventional, Organic, Kosher, and Raised without Antibiotics. Version 2. Jack M. Millman et al. in F1000Research, Vol. 2, Article No. 155. Published online September 2, 2013.
  3. Multidrug-Resistant and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) in Hog Slaughter and Processing Plant Workers and Their Community in North Carolina (USA). Ricardo Castillo Neyra et al. in Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 122, No. 5, pages 471–477; May 2014.
  4. Livestock-Associated Staphylococcus aureus: The United States Experience. Tara C. Smith in PLOS Pathogens, Vol. 11, No. 2, Article No. e1004564; February 5, 2015.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Drew Agravante


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