Antibiotics save countless lives every year. However, caution is advised when using them. Because the more an antibiotic is used, the more likely it is that resistant subtypes of the pathogen will develop. These then have an evolutionary advantage and spread accordingly quickly. It was therefore decided many years ago to keep certain antibiotics in reserve. These should only be used if the common variants no longer have any effect. In this way, the development of resistances that can no longer be treated should be prevented. But this only works partially. According to the EU Commission, around 700,000 people worldwide die every year due to antibiotic resistance. Around 33,000 of these deaths occurred in the countries of the European Union. Estimates assume that both values are likely to rise sharply again in the future. The EU Commission therefore speaks of a “silent pandemic”.
The worldwide increase in meat consumption increases the consumption of antibiotics
In this context, the use of antibiotics in animal breeding is particularly problematic. These are often used in Europe for disease prophylaxis. In some other countries they are also used to accelerate the growth of the animals. A large-scale study from 2019 came to the result that around three times as many antibiotics are used in animal breeding worldwide than in human medicine. In addition, demand is likely to continue to grow in the next few years due to the global increase in meat consumption. This is fundamentally problematic. As mentioned at the beginning, the risk of resistance increases with each application. It is even more worrying, however, that reserve antibiotics are sometimes used in animal breeding. A joint appeal from various non-profit organizations therefore urgently calls for at least this practice to be banned. Reserve antibiotics should then only be used in human medicine.
The development of new antibiotics has been stalling for years
So far, however, all initiatives in this direction have failed. The Greens in the European Parliament wanted to restrict the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine and animal breeding. But then, among other things, the practicing vets protested and launched a signature campaign. Ultimately, there was no majority in favor of the motion. Theoretically, there is also another approach to at least alleviate the problem: the development of new antibiotics. On the one hand, however, this is very costly. It is estimated that the development of a single new antibiotic costs several hundred million euros. At the same time, the income opportunities are limited – precisely because it should only be used in emergencies. Many large pharmaceutical manufacturers have therefore withdrawn from research in this area. Only massive state subsidies could help here.
Via: The mirror