Chicken

Antibiotics banned by the U.S. government for use in poultry production were found to still be in use according to a study published in the recent issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

The study, conducted by research teams at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University, looked at samples of chicken feather meal, which is commonly fed to chickens, pigs and fish. Of the drugs found in the chicken samples were the antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones—which were banned in the U.S. by the FDA in 2005.

Found in 8 of the 12 samples, fluoroquinolones are used to treat serious infections when bacteria have shown resistance to other antibiotics. They were banned in the use of poultry production due to an excessively high rate of resistance from Campylobacter, which continued to be present in record high numbers among poultry samples in the years following the ban, which could correlate to the research findings.

All of the study’s samples that were tested showed between 2 and 10 antibiotic residues along with other pharmaceuticals including traces of Tylenol, Prozac and Benadryl, and even traces of caffeine were present. The research team also used the antibiotic residues found in the feather samples on several strains of E. coli bacteria that were found to be in a high enough concentration to select for the bacteria.

The study’s news comes just as the FDA has announced its controversial suggested guidance for livestock industries that encourages voluntary action on addressing antibiotic resistance, rather than firm regulations or requirements. The World Health Organization has recently warned that without addressing the amount of antibiotics fed to animals raised for food, the world is facing a ‘post-antibiotic era‘ that could result in millions of senseless deaths.

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Image: StevenW.