Frontiers 2017: emerging issues of environmental concern
Antibiotics that has spilled from farms into the natural environment may be a bigger factor in spreading resistance to life-saving drugs than previously thought, report says. The overuse of antibiotics in farming has been highlighted as one of the biggest emerging threats to human health, spreading resistance to vital drugs and endangering millions of lives. Antibiotics used on farms can spill over into the surrounding environment, for instance through water run-off and slurry, according to a report from the UN’s environment body, with the potential to create resistance to the drugs across a wide area. This environmental diffusion of powerful medicines, to which bacteria are increasingly gaining resistance, is rendering even the drugs of last resort ineffective in human treatment, and may be a bigger factor in spreading resistance than had been thought. Previous concerns focused on resistance to the drugs among livestock and farm workers, but the UN report says the problem goes much further and is much more dangerous.