Antibiotic Resistance in Poultry Not Tied to Farms

It's a case of the egg coming before the chicken, study says

TUESDAY, March 13, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be found in chickens on antibiotic-free farms and even in chickens raised in pristine laboratory conditions, a news study finds.

Dr. Margie Lee, a professor in the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, said her findings suggest that when poultry arrive at farms, they already harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which may be acquired as they're developing in their eggs.

This means that reducing or eliminating the use of antibiotics on poultry farms will have little or no impact on lowering rates of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can pose a threat to human health.

"The resistances don't necessarily come from antibiotic use in the birds that we eat, so banning antibiotic use on the farm isn't going to help. You have to put in some work before that," Lee said in a prepared statement.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

A number of organizations are pushing for more comprehensive animal antibiotic restrictions in the United States, but Lee said her study results indicate that approach won't be effective in reducing antibiotic resistance in farm animals.

"The issue of antibiotic resistance is more complicated than once thought. These findings suggest that banning antibiotics at the farm level may not be as effective as assumed. We need further studies to identify which management practice would be effective," Lee said.

The study was funded by grants from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about antibiotic resistance in humans.

SOURCE: University of Georgia, news release, March 7, 2007
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