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Antibiotic abuse in animals threatens millions of people

10 million will die every year, warn scientists. The risks are too great to ignore, say the authors of a report on resistance to antibiotics that has put European authorities on guard. The document, prepared for the British Government, states that if no urgent action is taken, in 2050 more people will die of super bacterias (mutated and immune to any known drug) than of cancer (8.2 million deaths) or traffic accidents ( 1.2 million).

It is not a threat of the future. Super-resistant microbes already cause the death of thousands of people each year and generate a health expenditure of 150 million dollars per year, according to data from healthcare organizations.

The origin of the problem is not microbes, but people: doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists, livestock, patients. The indiscriminate and irresponsible use of antibiotics is causing multiresistant strains of bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumoniae, with a lethality above 50%, similar to that of the last Ebola outbreak, but without generating media attention. The consumption of antibiotics for animals becomes a great problem.

Farmers use the drug Colistin massively to prevent infections and to promote the growth of pigs. Colistin is also used in people as a last line treatment against multiresistant microbes, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, responsible for infections with high mortality. However, resistance to colistin is beginning to appear, favored by its use in animal husbandry, as reported by the WHO, which has asked to ban its use as prophylaxis. This year, a woman in the United States has been the first person to have a urine infection with a version of the bacterium Escherichia coli resistant to treatment with colistin.

In Europe Spain has the highest consumption of this antibiotic. Spain is the first pig producer in the EU, with 28 million animals. The irresponsible use of antibiotics for animals is not reduced to livestock, as highlighted by vets.

Antibiotics should be prescribed by veterinarians as little as possible, in order to avoid their inappropriate use, and as much as necessary, to ensure that animals are treated effectively to protect their health and well-being.

WHO also called for resisting the pressures and incentives of the pharmaceutical industry to prescribe antibiotics when they are not indicated, especially through aggressive campaigns to introduce new products in developing countries.

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