Antibiotic Use or Misuse: What We All Need To Know

Cattle in a feed lot

“Bridging the Gap Between Animal Health and Human Health” was the title of a symposium held in Kansas City, Mo.,  earlier this month.  Sponsored by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, it brought together scientists from the human and animal disciplines, media, and consumer advocacy groups, to discuss the role of antibiotics based on sound scientific information.

Antibiotic resistance has been called the single most complex problem in public health.” – Dr. Nevil Speer

Antibiotics are used in animal production to maintain health and prevent disease, just as they are in human health management, but concerns over use, misuse, and resistance is a serious concern to both the scientific community and the general public.  Several key points were agreed upon by the symposium group that are worthy of  everyone’s attention and will help us keep focused when we are trying to discern and evaluate information presented on the subject.  Consider these:

  • The extremely complex relationship between animal health, human health and environmental health is driven by two premises: 1) Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is present with or without the use of antimicrobials; and 2) Anytime an antibiotic enters the ecosystem, it contributes to the presence of antibiotic resistance.
  • Evaluating antimicrobial resistance involves balancing risks vs. needs while constantly recognizing the importance of maintaining an efficacious arsenal of human antibiotics.
  • Decisions should be based on science, and policy should be based on science.

“Antibiotic resistance has been called the single most complex problem in public health, and this symposium provided respective health communities and disciplines a platform where they shared their latest research findings”, stated Dr. Nevil Speer, Co-Chair of the event.  Perhaps one of the most agreed upon points was the  statement:  The science behind the emergence, amplification, persistence and transfer of antibiotic resistance is highly complex and open to misinterpretation and misuse. If you think you understand antimicrobial resistance, it hasn’t been explained properly.

More information on the symposium is available at

Be informed, Be Beef Smart!