Selective pressure by antibiotic use in livestock

Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2000 Nov;16 Suppl 1:S19-24. doi: 10.1016/s0924-8579(00)00301-0.


Selective pressure exerted by the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals appears to have created large reservoirs of transferable antibiotic resistance in these ecosystems. This first became evident for oxytetracycline and later for the streptothricin antibiotic nurseothricin, for which a transfer of relevant resistance determinants (sat genes) to bacterial pathogens of humans was demonstrated. With the emergence of glycopeptide resistance in Enterococcus faecium outside hospitals, a large reservoir of transferable resistance (vanA gene cluster) was identified in animal husbandry due to the use of avoparcin as feed additive. The spread of resistance, which reaches the human enterococcal flora via meat products, is probably due to the dissemination of the vanA gene cluster integrated into different conjugative plasmids among a variety of different strains. Streptogramin resistance associated with the resistance genes vatA and vatG has been found in E. faecium of animal and of clinical origin. Because virginiamycin has been used as growth promoter in animals but streptogramins have been used infrequently in human medicine, this again suggests an animal origin of resistance. Since the use of avoparcin ended, a decline in the rates of glycopeptide-resistant E. faecium (GREF) from animals and humans in the community has been recorded. This supports the ban of antibacterial growth promoters that might interfere with human chemotherapy that has been introduced in European Union countries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Drug Utilization
  • Enterococcus faecium / drug effects
  • Enterococcus faecium / genetics*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Transduction, Genetic*
  • Vancomycin Resistance / genetics*
  • Virginiamycin / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Virginiamycin