Top UK doctors urge government to ban routine mass use of antibiotics in farming

14 Nov 2016


Top doctors in the UK have urged the government to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to lead the world in banning the routine mass use of antibiotics in farming.

The heads of 12 royal medical colleges, as also the Faculty of Public Health, the British Medical Association and two leading health journals, today called on the government to  step up the fight against antimicrobial resistance by prohibiting preventative prescription of medicines on animals.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, they said the UK was now in a ''unique position'' to introduce a ban.

The call comes weeks after a Cambridge University study found that a quarter of supermarket chicken contained antibiotic-resistant e.coli, a bug that could lead to kidney failure and in severe cases death.

According to a government-commissioned report led by Lord Jim O'Neill, the rise of drug-resistant superbugs threatened to return medicine to the ''dark ages'' by rendering commonly used antibiotics ineffective.

The report added one of the reasons for the rise of antimicrobial resistance was the routine use of antibiotics by agricultural vets across the world.

The European Parliament voted to ban mass agricultural medication, the measure was however, subject to approval by member states and the European Commission.

Meanwhile, according to the latest research, by 2050 there would be an additional 10 million deaths with financial costs to the tune of $1 trillion due to antimicrobial resistance. 

But it was not as if there had been no warnings of the grave threat that antimicrobial resistance now posed. 

''The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant''.

Those words were spoken by Sir Alexander Fleming, who upon receiving his Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin, in 1945 advised caution in its use, lest it be over prescribed  to a point that it would be useless.

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