This week the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would be restricting farmers and ranchers in the use of antibiotics for livestock.
In the Jan. 4 press release the FDA said the order "prohibits certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys."
The regulation will take effect Apr. 5, 2012.
Reason cited for this ban is that the FDA wants to "preserve the effectiveness" of cephalosporin drugs for human use. If the use in animals is abundant, the strain of bacterial pathogens can become resistant to treatments and, as a result, impact the use of the drug for human illness.
Since the drugs development, it has been determined there has been an overuse and over time has reduced the usefulness of the drug class.
Being this class of drugs is a commonly used one for many illnesses, including pneumonia, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections, strep throat and skin infections, to name a few, doctors may have to turn to more risky drugs or use treatments that prove to be less effective in treating patients.
"We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals," said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
The FDA order prohibiting use of the cephalosporin drugs in animals include, "using cephalosporin drugs at unapproved dose levels, frequencies, durations, or routes of administration; using cephalosporin drugs in cattle, swine, chickens or turkeys that are not approved for use in that species (e.g., cephalosporin drugs intended for humans or companion animals); and using cephalosporin drugs for disease prevention."
There are some clauses that will allow veterinarians to use older forms of the drug, such as cephapirin, and also "limited" use with specific guidelines. Minor species, such as ducks or rabbits, are not included in the livestock restriction.
This move is the latest step in what the New York Times describes as the FDA's "incremental steps" towards weaning overuse of these once effective drugs. NYT mentioned how the agency restricted fluoroquinolones, which includes the powerful drug Cipro, ten years ago.
“This is particularly important because cephalosporins are so important to human health, but it’s only a first step,” said Laura Rogers of the Pew Charitable Trusts, which has advocated restricting agricultural uses of antibiotics, according to the NYT report.