Joe's policy paper

Joe Lockett
Oct. 06, 2008
Policy Paper

Agricultural Antibiotics

Finding antibiotics and using them is both helpful and potentially dangerous. As we know, antibiotics are chemicals used to inhibit specific actions of bacteria such as peptidoglycan production or DNA reproduction. When antibiotics are used, of the trillions of bacteria that have been duplicated, some may have developed certain mutations that can dodge an antibiotics attack. Once this happens natural selection will take place and the species that can survive will survive. This is called bacterial resistance. This is becoming more and more common with today’s wide spread use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are used and can be found almost anywhere today. Not only used in humans, antibiotics are widely used in farms and ranches as well. Ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone, is one of the most frequently used antibiotics used today. Many fear drugs, such as ciprofloxacin and other fluoroquinolones, will become useless against the fight with many bacteria. Many antibiotics like this are used to raise farming profits. In order to prevent the great fear of widespread resistant bacteria, we need to limit unnecessary widespread use of antibiotics a great deal in agricultural use. The government needs to restrict the use antibiotics for certain uses and methods for capital gains in farming.
Bacteria are constantly mutating and evolving. Because they duplicate themselves so fast and that there are some many of them they have the ability to evolve in a short period of time. When antibiotics are applied then it is natural selection that takes place. The fittest bacteria live on. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria (reference 2). Do not misunderstand that bacteria can only develop a resistance to antibiotics through duplication. They also perform an act known as conjugation. What happens is two bacteria make contact via an arm-like protrusion from one bacterium to another. After that the two cells can make a channel that connects the two through their peptidoglycan layers. One of the bacterium carries the resistant protein strand known as a “mini-chromosomes” or more commonly as plasmids (Salyers/Whitt 101). Plasmids capable of transferring themselves have the necessary genes to create the DNA copy of itself. This copy then moves into the nonresistant cell through the peptidoglycan channel making resistant. With bacteria have developing more than one way to become immune to antibiotics the human race cannot afford to widely use antibiotics in the way that they do.
Humans use antibiotics in almost everything that we do. In 1996, the FDA approved the use of enrofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone, for chicken farmers. This fluoroquinolone is diluted into the chickens’ water only for prevention of Escherichia coli (E. coli). This is a reckless use of antibiotics. Some farmers give their entire flock enrofloxacin as a method of prophylaxis, to prevent any diseases, and other farmers give it to their entire flock if one chicken becomes infected. This gives not only E. coli, but a huge number of other bacteria to evolve into resistant bacteria and possibly infect humans that handle these chickens in production. The problem with this is that these bacteria are already resistant to some antibiotic used to treat it. Proof of this recklessness can be found in research from the scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been documented that a rise in fluoroquinolone resistant Salmonella enterica. This test happened shortly after the enrofloxacin was introduced into agricultural use. Of course farmers need to ensure steady revenue but a better solution would be to have an insurance policy on your business assets/flock and treat the chickens where the bacteria broke out with the proper antibiotics.
(Salyers/Whitt 84)
The most unnecessary use of antibiotics can be found in agricultural use. Some ranchers use antibiotics as growth promoters. They do this to raise profits in selling the livestock and the products they produce such as milk or eggs. Raising profits is important but if the use of antibiotics were prohibited then the market would be just as competitive if all farmers use antibiotics. This poses the same problem as any antibiotic used any purpose other than to treat infected species. This again leaves a huge window open for bacteria mutation and evolution. Antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria are found in the air and soil around farms, in surface and ground water, in wild animal populations, and on retail meat and poultry. These resistant bacteria are carried into the kitchen on contaminated meat and poultry where other foods are cross-contaminated because of common, unsafe handling practices (reference 1). Penicillin and its derivatives, a large number of macrolides, sulfa drugs, and tetracyclines are some of the antibiotics used in livestock growth support. All of these antibiotics are also used to treat infected humans. Though food-producing animals are given antibiotic drugs for important therapeutic, disease prevention or production reasons, these drugs can cause microbes to become resistant to drugs used to treat human illness, ultimately making some human sicknesses harder to treat (reference 3).
Where do these antibiotics go after they are administered to these animals? To answer this it would be important to know that many antibiotics are stable molecules. They will stay in their molecular form if not actually used in destroying bacteria. A study was done in 1998 by a group of German scientists. These scientists where measuring concentrations of different chemicals in water from a sewage plant. They found an unusually high level of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in the water that was being released from the sewage plant (Salyers/Whitt 48). One can only imagine the incredibly high amount of various pathogens floating about in the water. There in no doubt that this is very unnerving knowing that the very chemicals that are used to fight pathogens are now making these pathogens resistant.
It is apparent that governments around the world should to pay closer attention to the agricultural use of antibiotics. By limiting the widespread use of antibiotics in agricultural use, the chances of creating “super-bugs” can also be limited. These fears of new resistant pathogens may soon be realized if certain actions aren’t taken to restrict the unnecessary use of agricultural antibiotics. Applications could be used to determine the need of the chemicals by farmers. This will slow and help control the long term resistance of potentially threatening pathogens.

1) "Agricultural antibiotic use contributes to 'super-bugs' in humans." 2003-2008.
Bio-Medicine. Oct. 2008 <>.

2) "Antibiotics: Use Only When Necessary." 17 Mar. 2004. Medical College of
Wisconsin. Oct. 2008 <>.

3) Facts About Antibiotics Resistance. United States. Food and Drug Administration.
Oct. 2008 <>.

4) Salyers, Abigail A., and Dixie D. Whitt. Revenge of the Microbes : How Bacterial
Resistance Is Undermining the Antibiotic Miracle. New York: ASM P, 2005.

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