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Departments: News, Notes and Tips

Healthcare Sector Supports Curb on Use of Human Antibiotics in Food Animals

doi: 10.1097/NNE.0b013e3181e9c9d9
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As of this writing, healthcare representatives are attempting to move forward with a bipartisan bill that would help end the common practice of adding human antibiotics to the food and water of animals. The bill, known as "The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (PAMTA)" has garnered support from hospitals, healthcare systems and healthcare practitioners. Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), a global coalition working to make healthcare safer and more sustainable has established a petition site at to attempt to centralize support from the healthcare community.

Poultry, cattle, and swine raised in the U.S. receive about 70% of all of the antibiotics used in the country each year. These antibiotics are not used to treat existing illnesses, but to promote more rapid growth in agricultural animals and as a prophylaxis to prevent disease. Growers justify this practice by noting that animals raised in confined conditions are at a higher risk for bacterial infections. The confinement of these animals raised for food is another issue. However, antibiotics that are commonly used to treat human illnesses including penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin and sulfa drugs are given to these animals in low dosages. Resistant bacteria can thus result and be transmitted to humans through farming practices, food processing, improperly handled meat or undercooked meats. By decreasing the use of these antibiotics in farming practices, proponents of PAMTA believe we can slow down the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In fact, in many European countries total antibiotic use in agriculture has been reduced by about 59%, with no noted economic or health-related problems.

The American Nurses Association (ANA), The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and numerous state nurses associations support PAMTA. We are all aware of the significance of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Perhaps this issue represents a needed change that students, faculty and practicing nurses can reasonably support.

Source: Healthcare Without Harm. January 7, 2010. Health care without harm petition supports antibiotic legislation. HCWH News. Available at Accessed on March 14, 2010.

Submitted by: Robin Pattillo, PhD, RN, News Editor at

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