The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

How Animal Antibiotics Threaten Public Health

In industrial food animal production (IFAP), using antibiotics as a preventative measure rather than a therapeutic one has been common practice for several decades. Now, a study by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (JHCLF) finds that the continued overuse of antibiotics in livestock has lead to dangerous effects in people, including the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics used for treating human infections. The study, called "Industrial Food Animal Production in America: Examining the Impact of the Pew Commission’s Priority Recommendations", blames the continued use of unnecessary antibiotics in livestock on policies that are lobbied by the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that antibiotic resistant threats are on the rise, and at least two million people a year become infected with these bacteria. At least 23,000 cases cause death each year. The CDC is very clear on the causes of these increases: "Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe. Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria."

The JHCLF report strongly recommends discontinuing the use of antimicrobials in food animals unless the animals are diagnosed with an illness. Chronic administration in low doses, the study says, "contributes to the evolution and proliferation of antimicrobial-resistant strains of bacteria."

The Homeland Security Digital Library has a wide variety of materials related to chronic infection, which pose unique security risks to the United States. Read more about this topic and more here.