Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it wants to ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. The ban is intended to prevent the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.

According to media reports, Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, testified that feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock to encourage rapid growth should cease. And, Sharfstein said farmers should no longer be able to use antibiotics in animals without supervision of a veterinarian.

At this time, the FDA is not opposed to the use of ionophores.

Scharfstein’s testimony was part of a hearing on H.R. 1549, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009. Bill H.R. 1549 introduced by Louise Slaughter (D, N.Y.), would phase-out the non-therapeutic use of seven classes of antibiotics in livestock production. According to an article in Feedstuffs, a companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy (D, Mass.). Reportedly, both bills are supported by the American Medical Association.

The seven classes of antibiotics include penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptograminds, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides, and any other drugs used to treat bacterial illness in people.

Some experts believe that the ban would not make much of an impact on human lives. In a recent For the Record published in Dairy Herd Management, Tony Cox, a risk-assessment specialist and theoretical mathematician, asks how long it would take to save one additional human life from untreatable Entercoccus infection if penicillin use in food animals were to stop. His conservative estimate is 7.4 years and his realistic estimate is 25 years.

To read more on this issue, download the May 2009 issue of For the Record, here.

Mike Apley, a veterinary clinical pharmacologist at Kansas State University and a well-known expert on the subject, also offers comments on therapeutic and non-therapeutic animal antibiotic usage. Click here to read them.

Click here to read: Antibiotic Resistance: The Human Factor