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Agriculture and food animals as a source of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria

Authors Economou V, Gousia P

Received 22 December 2014

Accepted for publication 5 February 2015

Published 1 April 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 49—61

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IDR.S55778

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Suresh Antony

Vangelis Economou,1 Panagiota Gousia2

1Department of Hygiene and Technology of Food of Animal Origin, School of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece; 2Food-Water Microbiology Unit, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece

Abstract: One of the major breakthroughs in the history of medicine is undoubtedly the discovery of antibiotics. Their use in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine has resulted in healthier and more productive farm animals, ensuring the welfare and health of both animals and humans. Unfortunately, from the first use of penicillin, the resistance countdown started to tick. Nowadays, the infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasing, and resistance to antibiotics is probably the major public health problem. Antibiotic use in farm animals has been criticized for contributing to the emergence of resistance. The use and misuse of antibiotics in farm animal settings as growth promoters or as nonspecific means of infection prevention and treatment has boosted antibiotic consumption and resistance among bacteria in the animal habitat. This reservoir of resistance can be transmitted directly or indirectly to humans through food consumption and direct or indirect contact. Resistant bacteria can cause serious health effects directly or via the transmission of the antibiotic resistance traits to pathogens, causing illnesses that are difficult to treat and that therefore have higher morbidity and mortality rates. In addition, the selection and proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains can be disseminated to the environment via animal waste, enhancing the resistance reservoir that exists in the environmental microbiome. In this review, an effort is made to highlight the various factors that contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and to provide some insights into possible solutions to this major health issue.

Keywords: antimicrobial resistance, farm animals, food safety, foodborne pathogens, alternatives to antibiotics

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