WHO urged farmers to no longer use antibiotics on healthy animals to prevent the spread of resistance to these drugs
Bacterial resistance to one of the most common antibiotics, ampicillin, predates its use in humans and may have been caused by penicillin administration to cattle in the 1950s, according to a study released Thursday .
„Antibiotic residues in agricultural environments in the 1950s, such as manure, soil, and water, may have impacted far beyond what was thought about the spread of ampicillin resistance. „says Dr. François-Xavier Weill, of the Pasteur Institute, who led this research. Their result appeared in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
„It is urgent to reassess the use of antibiotics in animals,“ says Dr. Weill, who advocates „a close watch of bacterial resistance, both in humans and animals, and this to the global scale „.
In early November, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged farmers to no longer use antibiotics on healthy animals, to prevent the spread of resistance to these drugs.
Ampicillin, a synthetic penicillin, was marketed in Europe in 1961. However, the first outbreaks caused by bacteria resistant to this antibiotic were observed in humans shortly after, from 1962.
Intrigued by this very short time, French researchers have studied the genetic properties of resistant bacteria.
They discovered „that bacteria possessing genes capable of transmitting ampicillin resistance have, in fact, unexpectedly appeared in the late 1950s“, explains the Institut Pasteur in a statement.
„The emergence of this resistance to ampicillin may be due to the use in penicillin G farms,“ say the researchers.
According to them, resistance genes can be transferred between strains of bacteria when they are exposed to relatively low levels of penicillin G, similar to the doses used at the time in the farms.
Discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and mass produced during the Second World War, penicillin G was used in the 1950s in farms in North America and Europe, to grow animals and increase their market value.
Increasing antibiotic resistance is a source of concern for global health authorities, and WHO regularly raises the alarm.
„It is estimated that, by 2050, this resistance will make more than 10 million victims in the world“, assure the authors of the study.