Superbugs spreading

A high-profile team of researchers from different countries recently published an article on the number of people who have died or been hospitalised each year as a direct result of infection with a particular drug-resistant bacterial strain (a type of E.coli). In Europe, this superbug is responsible for 1,518 deaths and 67,236 days in hospital every year. In the UK, the biggest poultry meat consumer in Europe, the figures are 1,580 cases of blood poisoning, 280 deaths and 12,500 hospital days per year. This superbug originates directly from the overuse of cephalosporin, an antibiotic used in broiler chicken farms. The authors say: “in Europe, the infection rate is likely to have tripled from 2007 to 2012”. British poultry producers recently agreed a voluntary ban on cephalosporin but the Soil Association pointed out that other farm antibiotics routinely used at chicken farms keep the resistant bacteria in circulation so the problem is far from being solved. It is also concerning that this is just one type of an antibiotic resistant bacterium being spread by just one species when there are many other bacteria and other intensely farmed species – pigs, dairy cows, turkeys, ducks, fish – many of which are being treated with antibiotics.

Collignon, P., Aarestrup, F.M., Irwin, R., McEwen, S.,  2013. Human Deaths and Third-Generation Cephalosporin use in Poultry, Europe. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 19 (8): 1339-1340.

Soil Association, 2013. Scientists quantify number of human deaths due to antibiotic use in chicken production: www.soilassociation.org/antibiotics