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Antibiotics with a side of steak

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We’re in a sad and weird place in biomedical science. In the 1940’s we got penicillin, in the following 30 years another 13 different classes of antibiotic were introduced. Since 1970 the number of new classes has dropped to a worrying 2. Since then we have found new ways to arrange the deckchairs on our once proud antibiotic ship but we are well and truly sinking.

This is an awful situation as we are fast approaching a world full of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and no drugs to treat them. One aspect of our antibiotic use has vastly accelerated the rise of the antibiotic resistant herd, the use of antibiotics as a procedural step in food animal production and agriculture generally.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just released a new report outlining the sales data of antibiotics for animal agriculture use in the US. Antibiotic use in food production topped out 13.2 MILLION (!!!) kg of antibiotics last year. This number is up on last years report, the only other report performed by the FDA in this regard despite claims by the industry that less antibiotic is being used per animal. In many ways this reflects the global food demands but it also highlights a very important question, should we be pumping our meat full of antibiotics?

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