Antibiotic Resistance

Season 18
Episode 1805

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the rapid emergence of resistant bacteria and endangering the efficacy of antibiotics. Considered the next pandemic, antibiotic resistance is a threat to global health and food security.

The following information is from the CDC:

Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.

More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year. More than 35,000 people die as a result, according to CDC’s 2019 Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Threats Report. When Clostridioides difficile—a bacterium that is not typically resistant but can cause deadly diarrhea and is associated with antibiotic use—is added to these, the U.S. toll of all the threats in the report exceeds 3 million infections and 48,000 deaths.

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries. This makes it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.

Bacteria and fungi do not have to be resistant to every antibiotic to be dangerous. Resistance to even one antibiotic can mean serious problems. For example:

Antibiotic-resistant infections that require the use of second- and third-line treatments can harm patients by causing serious side effects, such as organ failure, and prolong care and recovery, sometimes for months
Many medical advances are dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics, including joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and the treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis
In some cases, these infections have no treatment options
If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control these public health threats.

The following information is from the CDC

Antibiotic Use in the Food Supply

Antibiotics are valuable tools for treating infections. However, any antibiotic use—for people, animals, or plants—can cause side effects and contribute to antibiotic resistance. Most of the time, antibiotics are not needed to treat foodborne illnesses. Avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics helps slow the spread of antibiotic resistance. However, some people may get more severe infections and antibiotics can be lifesaving. People at risk for severe infections include young children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with other health conditions. Talk with your healthcare provider and learn more about antibiotic use and human health.

Antibiotic use in food animals can help treat, control, and prevent bacterial diseases in animals. However, to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance, antibiotics should only be used when necessary. CDC supports judicious use of antibiotics in people and animals, including the important work that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are doing to improve antibiotic use in veterinary medicine and agriculture. Learn how livestock and poultry producers can help stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Use of Antibiotics in the Food Supply
FDA’s 2015 Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule outlines the process for authorizing the use of VFD drugs (animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed that require the supervision of a licensed veterinarian) and provides veterinarians in all states with a framework for authorizing the use of medically important antibiotics—those that are important to human health—in feed when needed for specific animal health purposes.

Additionally, implementation of FDA’s Guidance for Industry #213 in 2017 significantly changed the way medically important antibiotics can be used in food animals. When the changes were fully implemented, it became illegal to use medically important antibiotics for production purposes, and animal producers now need to obtain authorization from a licensed veterinarian to use them for treatment, prevention, and control of a specifically identified disease. Learn how veterinarians protect patients and people from antibiotic resistance.

Prevention of Antibiotic Residues in Food
USDA, with FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), administers the U.S. National Residue Program (NRP) to prevent residues that pose a potential threat to human health from entering the food supply.

Understanding Food Labels
USDA requires documentation from food producers to approve labels. Food labels on meat and poultry like “No Antibiotics Ever (NAE)” or “Raised Without Antibiotics,” and “No Added Antibiotics” mean that source food animals never received antibiotics. When these labels accompany a seal that states “USDA Process Verified,” it means USDA inspectors visited the farm to verify antibiotic resistance.

However, these products can still carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria. All animals carry bacteria in their gut, and some of these can be resistant, even if the animal never receives antibiotics. These resistant bacteria can spread between animals and into food products.


Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Guidance from the CDC on antibiotic & antimicrobial resistance.
Harvard Medical School
Article from Harvard Medical School detailing the steps to combating antibiotic resistance.
Food & Drug Administration
Article published by the FDA offering tips on fighting antibiotic resistance.
Keep Antibiotics Working
The Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW) Coalition fights against the spread of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." Formed in 2001, KAW is a coalition of advocacy groups that joined to ensure that untreatable superbugs resulting from the overuse of antibiotics on farms do not reverse the medical advances of the past century.
Transcript PDF