Antibiotics in Livestock Can Create Superbugs That Are Immune to Antibiotics - Argumentative Essay

Published: 2021-08-17
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University of Richmond
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Argumentative essay
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An antibiotic is a drug that is used to fight bacteria by either suppressing their growth or by killing them. These drugs are used in treatment and prevention of diseases in livestock. There has been some criticism about the side-effects of consuming these antibiotics frequently. This paper examines this in details.


Modern medicine was invented about half a century ago. It brought with it a lot of excitement with its power to fight diseases that there before had tormented both humans and livestock. Before the invention of modern medicine, diseases such as polio and smallpox used to wipe out entire generations of organisms. New era diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Ebola could not have been controlled without the help of modern medicine. However, with time there have been worries concerning repeated use of antibiotics. Some research has shown some bacteria are becoming immune to some of the antibiotics meant to eliminate them. A good example is the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacterium which causes tuberculosis. Recent versions of this bacterium are immune to drugs and tend to be twice as deadly. They cause chronic tuberculosis. This resistance to antibiotics has been said by some researchers to originate from the ability of the bacteria to adapt to the antibiotics in use to fight it frequently (Cooper 15).

Resistance to Antibiotics

Anthony E. and Ellen E. in their article titled Antibiotic Usage in Animals argue that every time an antibiotic is used to fight bacteria, antibiotic resistance is created. They go further to say when bacteria in animals resist antibacterial, and it happens to both the bacteria that was being fought in the first place as well as bacteria that were exposed to the drug, though not necessarily involved in the illness the animal was having. This means bacteria that cause human diseases can also develop resistance to drugs originating from its exposure to animal antibacterial (Van den Bogaard and Stobberingh 597)

Resistance to antibacterial drugs by pathogens in livestock is increased by the very nature of how we rear them. Globally there is an increase in human population. Farmers and people in business have found an opportunity in this where they keep more animals to feed this ever-growing population. The challenge in this is that keeping a large herd of livestock together creates the perfect condition for the spread of resistant bacteria. Besides the housing together of many livestock, these pathogens can also spread in times of transportation of the livestock, manure handling, meat processing, and so on. The human interaction with these pathogens has proved to be fatal too for victims. Nipah virus infections in Malaysia and Singapore killed both swine and swine workers. Avian influenza has been reported to kill both poultry and poultry workers in Asia, USA, and South America.

Treating resistant bacteria is hard since there are very few drugs that can do that. In some cases, there are none at all. The point of concern is especially where a bacterium is immune to more than one kind of drug. Such trends make scientists fear that soon we may get into a post-antibiotic era. This would take as to the pre-modern medicine days unless a way to handle this problem is devised.

Some scientists argue that increased antibiotic resistance in livestock originates from overuse of antibiotics. This misuse is mostly in human medicine, but it ends up affecting even bacteria that cause diseases in livestock. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, 11.2 million Kgs of antibiotics were used in the USA in 2001 mainly to boost growth in livestock. Some antibacterial drugs are also used in livestock to increase the food conversion ratio. This excessive use of antibacterial drugs little by little causes bacteria in the organism to become resistant. Ultimately, these resistant bacteria are passed from one organism to another including human beings who enjoy a meal from livestock. Remember, this kind of antibacterial use is in low dosage since it is not for curative purposes. It, therefore, does not kill bacteria within livestock. It just develops their resistance. In 1976 some researchers studied tetracycline which is normally a human antibiotic. Back then it was added to poultry food as a supplement. The study showed that before the use of the drug no farmer suffered from intestinal flora. Five months of using the drug showed that over 31% of the farmers were suffering from tetracycline-resistant intestinal flora. Such kind of study in Europe in the 1970s revealed the same kind of results. Avoparcin was being used as a growth promoter in livestock. The result was the rise of Vancomycin-resistant enterococci.

Different studies have looked into the possibility of a livestock bacterium resulting in being resistant to more than one antibacterial. The results were worrying. In the USA, the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus was found to be resistant to penicillin, methicillin, lincomycin, erythromycin and several more. The bacteria were found to be hosted by pigs, but it infected human beings too.

Medics are now referring the antibiotic-resistant bacteria as superbugs. Patients suffering from diseases caused by superbugs are four times as likely to die as those with diseases caused by the ordinary bacteria. Previously, superbugs were only found in patients already admitted to hospitals such as those suffering from chronic tuberculosis. However, as the resistant bacteria continue to wreak havoc, healthy people are also dying from superbugs too ("Fighting Superbugs" 15).

Drug companies have tried to curb this problem by developing new stronger antimicrobials. The drugs are working quite effectively. It is the fear of what could happen if the bacteria become resistant to such strong drugs that have many interested groups worried. They see these drug companies as a bunch of people seeking to make the best out of a bad situation. They look at them as people who only care for the short term remedies without putting in mind what the long term could potentially hold. Some critics of this measure have suggested that there should be strong laws to curb the use of all antibiotics including those used in livestock to boost production. However, other quarters argue that it would be better to use participation and voluntary efforts to control the use of antibiotics rather than the use of hard laws.

John H. Powers compares each antibiotic to a tank of gasoline. It is good for only so many uses. The resistance problem begins when it runs out. A common disease caused by bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Traditionally, this disease was treatable with just a few antibiotics. However, with time the bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin and cephalosporin which were the cures for the disease. Other resistant bacteria include Klebsiella pneumonia and Acinetobacter. Klebsiella causes several urinary tract infections while acinetobacter mainly preys on wounds. Medics will often require an individual patient to complete their drug dosage as a means to prevent superbugs. Failure to take the full dose will mean the weak bacteria will die, but the strong will survive and rise again later as mutant resistors (Gilchrist, et al. 315).

Hygiene measures can help the population to avoid superbugs. Keeping livestock sheds clean is one such measure. Always washing hands is another such measure. The need to reduce the antibiotics used to boost crop and livestock production needs to be looked into, too. My opinion is that if we want to win this fight, we need to use antibiotics strictly for curative purposes only, both for humans and for livestock .

Many countries could learn from Denmark on how to prevent resistant bacteria both for humans and livestock. A scientist called Levy did some research that showed just how harmful tetracyclines were concerning the development of a drug-resistant bacteria. Tetracycline was a chemical added to chicken feed previously to foster their growth. After Levy shared his research findings, Denmark banned the use of tetracyclines as growth promoters (Van den Bogaard and Stobberingh 595).

In conclusion, drug-resistant bacteria in livestock are a cause for worry globally. The study has shown this. What remains is for us to find a way to stop this resistance. It is a big problem that might need a multifaceted solution. It may involve the adoption of new antibiotics use policies as well as more creative medicinal research into ways to fight bacteria without harming the population in the long run.

Works Cited

Cooper, Mary H. "Combating Infectious Diseases." CQResearcher, vol. 5, 9 June 1995,

"Fighting Superbugs." CQ researcher, vol. 17, 24 Aug. 2007.

Gilchrist, Mary J., et al. "The Potential Role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Infectious Disease Epidemics and Antibiotic Resistance." Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 115, no. 2, 2006, pp. 313-316.

Levy, Sharon. "Reduced Antibiotic Use in Livestock: How Denmark Tackled Resistance." Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 122, no. 6, 2014, pp. A160-A165.

Van den Bogaard, Anthony E., and Ellen E. Stobberingh. "Antibiotic Usage in Animals." Drugs, vol. 58, no. 4, 1999, pp. 589-607.

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