Excerpted from The Independent:
Antibiotic-resistant genes are being spread around the world in animal feed, according to new research that adds to fears humanity could lose one of our most important medicines.
A UK government-commissioned report last year estimated 10 million people a year could die worldwide by 2050 because of the rise of ‘superbugs’, prompting the then Prime Minister David Cameron to announce a crackdown on over-prescribing by GPs and lead efforts to tackle the problem at the United Nations.
Bacteria resistant to the ‘last resort’ antibiotic, colistin, was found in the UK in December 2015, following similar discoveries in parts of Europe, Africa and China.
There has been concern about antibiotics given to livestock for some time with the European Union banning farmers from using it as growth promoter.
And the new research, by scientists at Dalian University of Technology in China, found another source of the problem related to food production: antibiotic-resistant genes in fishmeal, meat-and-bone meal and chicken meal.
The scientists said fishmeal – “one of the most globally traded commodities” – was serving as “a vehicle to promote antibiotic-resistant gene dissemination internationally”.
This could help explain why resistant bacteria have been showing up in unexpected places around the world such as isolated caves and ancient permafrost.
“Our study implies that long-term and repeated feeding with fishmeal may accelerate the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and even pathogens …,” the researchers wrote in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.