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Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2007 Summer;4(2):115-33.

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria associated with food animals: a United States perspective of livestock production.

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Department of Animal Science, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA.


The use of antimicrobial compounds in food animal production provides demonstrated benefits, including improved animal health, higher production and, in some cases, reduction in foodborne pathogens. However, use of antibiotics for agricultural purposes, particularly for growth enhancement, has come under much scrutiny, as it has been shown to contribute to the increased prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria of human significance. The transfer of antibiotic resistance genes and selection for resistant bacteria can occur through a variety of mechanisms, which may not always be linked to specific antibiotic use. Prevalence data may provide some perspective on occurrence and changes in resistance over time; however, the reasons are diverse and complex. Much consideration has been given this issue on both domestic and international fronts, and various countries have enacted or are considering tighter restrictions or bans on some types of antibiotic use in food animal production. In some cases, banning the use of growth-promoting antibiotics appears to have resulted in decreases in prevalence of some drug resistant bacteria; however, subsequent increases in animal morbidity and mortality, particularly in young animals, have sometimes resulted in higher use of therapeutic antibiotics, which often come from drug families of greater relevance to human medicine. While it is clear that use of antibiotics can over time result in significant pools of resistance genes among bacteria, including human pathogens, the risk posed to humans by resistant organisms from farms and livestock has not been clearly defined. As livestock producers, animal health experts, the medical community, and government agencies consider effective strategies for control, it is critical that science-based information provide the basis for such considerations, and that the risks, benefits, and feasibility of such strategies are fully considered, so that human and animal health can be maintained while at the same time limiting the risks from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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