Issue: October 2017
September 05, 2017
3 min read

Experts issue recommendations for reducing antibiotic use in livestock

Issue: October 2017
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A new report authored by 12 antibiotic resistance experts outlines policy recommendations that aim to address the contribution of antibiotic use in livestock in the United States to the global threat of drug resistance.

The CDC estimates that 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States. However, the Expert Commission on Addressing the Contribution of Livestock to the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis, co-chaired by Lance B. Price, PhD, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, reported that some experts believe the actual number of deaths may be up to four times higher. It is predicted that the total number of annual deaths attributable to antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide, which is currently estimated to be 700,000, will increase to 10 million by 2050, surpassing the number of deaths caused by cancer.

“This Commission believes the antibiotic resistance crisis cannot be resolved by only addressing antibiotic use in people, given the extensive use of the drugs in food animal production,” Price and colleagues wrote in their report. “Experts agree that the 21st century crisis of antibiotic resistance is a ‘One Health’ issue.”

According to the researchers, approximately 70% of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States are used in food-producing animals. The United States ranks second globally in reporting the highest amount of antibiotic use in food animal production, which accounts for an estimated 13% of the world’s total antibiotic use.

Approximately 70% of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in food-producing animals, according to researchers.

“Some positive policies have been implemented to curb inappropriate antibiotic use in U.S. food animal production, but they’ve been too slow and fall short of what is needed,” Price said in a press release. “Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest health threats of our time. It’s time for more concrete, comprehensive action from policymakers, food companies, large food buyers and medical groups. We urgently need these policies to protect the public.”

In the report, “Combating Antibiotic Resistance: A Policy Roadmap to Reduce Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Livestock,” experts in infectious disease medicine, veterinary medicine, microbiology, epidemiology and public health provide 11 recommendations on how the United States can further reduce and monitor antibiotic use in food animal production. The guidance is mostly meant for federal and state policymakers to consider, but it is also aimed at food companies, institutional food purchasers such as hospitals, schools and universities, and medical groups.


When it comes to antibiotic use in livestock, the authors recommend:

  • setting targets for reducing antibiotic use;
  • phasing out routine use of medically important antibiotics;
  • reducing the need for antibiotics by implementing better practices for preventing disease;
  • eliminating antibiotic use when drug efficacy cannot be demonstrated;
  • prioritizing the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine that are not considered “critically important” in people by WHO;
  • strengthening veterinary oversight of antibiotic use through safeguards;
  • developing a system for collecting data on antibiotic use;
  • working with other countries to create a comprehensive data collection system;
  • establishing a metric for reporting antibiotic sales or use that allows for trends to be identified;
  • integrating data into a single and comprehensive report; and
  • improving surveillance of antibiotic-resistant threats through next-generation sequencing technology.

The researchers concluded that action “must be taken today” to ensure that effective antibiotics continue to be available for future generations.

Jason Newland
Jason Newland

“Until we become better stewards of antibiotics, both in human medicine and in livestock production, these life-saving drugs will continue to become less effective, and the effectiveness of any future antibiotics will be at constant risk, Jason Newland, MD, co-chair of the expert commission, pediatric infectious diseases physician at Washington University in St. Louis and director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said in the release. – by Stephanie Viguers


Expert Commission on Addressing the Contribution of Livestock to the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis. Combatting Antibiotic Resistance: A Policy Roadmap to Reduce Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Livestock. 2017. Accessed September 1, 2017.

Disclosure: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.