INDEPENDENT NEWS

Antibiotic Growth Promotants Must Be Banned

Published: Sun 10 Oct 1999 04:52 PM
Antibiotic Growth Promotants Must Be Banned, Say Greens
Hospital superbugs show antibiotic growth promotants must be banned, say Greens
The discovery of a potentially deadly, drug-resistant superbug at Wellington Hospital is a wake-up call to New Zealanders - particularly the pig and poultry industries - to stop abusing antibiotics, the Green Party says.
Newspaper reports say that fourteen cases of a potentially deadly hospital superbug have been diagnosed at Wellington Hospital in the past two months. The hospital has isolated three patients infected with the drug-resistant bacterium methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Last month, two patients died at Christchurch Hospital with the antibiotic-resistant superbug acinetobacter in their blood.
Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said a recent British government report confirmed the growth of drug-resistant superbugs in humans directly on the over-use on farm animals of antibiotics used to make them grow faster. A New Zealand report on the topic is due out this month.
"Scientists have been warning for years that antibiotic resistance will be one of the greatest health problems confronting humanity in the 21st century," Ms Kedgley said. "It is putting the long-term health of all New Zealanders at risk and the government must move to ban the use of antibiotic growth promotants."
An antibiotic growth promotant, Avoparcin, that is fed continuously to healthy New Zealand chickens and pigs to make them grow more quickly, has been banned in Europe after research revealed that its over-use was behind the emergence of bacteria resistant to Vancomycin, which is used as a drug of last resort to treat serious infections such as those caused by the superbug MRSA.
Routine Avoparcin use leads to Vancomycin-resistant bacteria in the guts of animals. These resistant bacteria may transfer in food to humans and cause infections in the gut, Ms Kedgley said.
"When we know that antibiotic resistance is spreading rapidly in New Zealand, it is madness to continue feeding millions of doses of antibiotics to perfectly healthy animals simply to make them grow more quickly," she said.
Ms Kedgley said nobody knew exactly how many antibiotics were fed to intensively reared farm animals each year, because antibiotic growth promotants could be used without a prescription.
"But we do know that 60 million chickens in New Zealand are fed antibiotic growth promotants every day of their 34-42 day lives - 19.8 million doses a year - and most of the country's 800,000 commercially raised pigs are also fed antibiotics."
Sue Kedgley: 04 384 9123

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