This week Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA). The bill was first introduced in June 2013. PARA will require the FDA to eliminate its approval for medically important antibiotics for disease prevention.
“Antibiotics are the closest thing to a ‘silver bullet’ in human medicine given their ability to wipe out a wide variety of bacterial infections, but we are in danger of losing this weapon in the fight against infectious diseases,” said Feinstein in a press release. “When antibiotics are fed in low doses to animals, only the strongest, most resistant bacteria are left behind to reproduce. By the time these resistant pathogens make their way from the animals into our communities, the infections can be costly to treat or untreatable all together.”
The bill would require drug companies and producers to prove the drugs are being used to treat diagnosed disease, not just to fatten up livestock. The restrictions would only be directed at those antibiotics that are important to human health. Farmers could still use available antibiotics to treat sick animals or animals that could become sick.
Under the bill, if a drug producer can prove that use of its drug does not pose a threat to human health, it would be issued a new label that says it supports “prudent” use of antibiotics.
The bill would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. According to the bill, 84 percent of swine farms, 83 percent of cattle feedlots, and 84 percent of sheep farmers administer antimicrobials in the feed or water of livestock for health and growth promotion. And many of the drugs used are closely related to or identical to drugs used in human medicine including tetracyclines, macrolides, and penicillins. These drugs are used to treat serious human diseases like pneumonia, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, sexually transmitted diseases, and skin infections. Any overuse or misuse of these drugs could contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance in human medicine and agriculture.
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“The irresponsible use of antibiotics is dangerous, and tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die each year from antibiotic resistant infections,” Feinstein added. “We must preserve the efficacy of these life-saving drugs by carefully restricting their overuse in our agriculture products.”
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Image of cattle via AFNR / Shutterstock.com