A team of researchers at the ETH Zürich, the University of Cambridge, and the Princeton University pooled publicly available data from 37 countries to carry out the study. According to the research team, large quantities of antimicrobials are now being used in modern animal farming to prevent diseases and promote growth. (Related: 70 Percent of antibiotics used on animals slaughtered for food.)
"Globally, animals receive almost three times as many antibiotics than people, although much of this use is not medically necessary, and many new strains of antibiotic-resistant infections are now common in people after originating in our livestock. As global demand for meat grows and agriculture continues to transition from extensive farming and smallholdings to more intensive practices, the use of antimicrobials in food production will increasingly threaten the efficacy of these life-saving drugs," study co-author Emma Glennon has stated in Science Daily online.
However, the scientists have suggested that imposing global policies based on user fees and implementing stricter regulations may help mitigate these alarming projections. The health experts have noted that putting a cap on antimicrobial use in farm animals could significantly reduce the total global consumption without hurting the livestock trade among low- and middle-income countries.
"Under a user fee policy, the billions of dollars raised in revenues could be invested in the development of new antimicrobial compounds, or put towards improving farm hygiene around the world to reduce the need for antibiotics, in particular in low- and middle-income countries," first author Dr. Thomas Van Boeckel added.
The health experts gave three recommendations in stemming antimicrobial use and potentially preventing its upsurge in the coming years. These recommendations include:
"The use of antimicrobials in food animals could be reduced by 2030 between nine and 80 percent with effective policies compared with a business-as-usual target (BAU) of continued growth of the livestock sector with current levels of antimicrobial use...This could be achieved either by reducing the quantity of antimicrobial used per animal...or the number of animals that we raise for food," the researchers have added.