New Royal Society paper models link between antibiotic use on-farm and antibiotic resistance issues in humans

The Royal Society has published a new paperModelling the impact of curtailing antibiotic usage in food animals on antibiotic resistance in humans”, which mathematically models the impact of curtailing antibiotic usage in food animals on antibiotic resistance in humans.

It finds that: “…for a wide range of scenarios, curtailing the volume of antibiotics consumed by food animals has, as a stand-alone measure, little impact on the level of resistance in humans”.

It also says: “..reducing the rate of transmission of resistance from animals to humans may be more effective than an equivalent reduction in the consumption of antibiotics in food animals”.

In response, RUMA says it welcomes the Royal Society’s study but cautions that what the paper itself describes as a ‘simple model’ can only give an indication of likely outcomes.

RUMA chair Gwyn Jones says: “The study highlights the complexity of antibiotic resistance and the need for a ‘One Health’ approach to the problem across humans and animals. So while it suggests that removal of antibiotics from animal production systems is not the answer to antimicrobial resistance in humans, the food and farming sector should not in any way dilute its current focus on reducing, refining and replacing antibiotic use across all sectors.

“An important point it does raise, however, is that a drive for ‘antibiotic-free’ farm produce is not necessarily beneficial for human health and makes any related detrimental impacts on animal health and welfare even more unjustifiable. RUMA therefore retains its position that responsible use of antibiotics alongside well-managed, scientifically-robust reductions is the most appropriate approach.”