Agriculture and food animals as a source of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria

Infect Drug Resist. 2015 Apr 1:8:49-61. doi: 10.2147/IDR.S55778. eCollection 2015.


One of the major breakthroughs in the history of medicine is undoubtedly the discovery of antibiotics. Their use in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine has resulted in healthier and more productive farm animals, ensuring the welfare and health of both animals and humans. Unfortunately, from the first use of penicillin, the resistance countdown started to tick. Nowadays, the infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are increasing, and resistance to antibiotics is probably the major public health problem. Antibiotic use in farm animals has been criticized for contributing to the emergence of resistance. The use and misuse of antibiotics in farm animal settings as growth promoters or as nonspecific means of infection prevention and treatment has boosted antibiotic consumption and resistance among bacteria in the animal habitat. This reservoir of resistance can be transmitted directly or indirectly to humans through food consumption and direct or indirect contact. Resistant bacteria can cause serious health effects directly or via the transmission of the antibiotic resistance traits to pathogens, causing illnesses that are difficult to treat and that therefore have higher morbidity and mortality rates. In addition, the selection and proliferation of antibiotic-resistant strains can be disseminated to the environment via animal waste, enhancing the resistance reservoir that exists in the environmental microbiome. In this review, an effort is made to highlight the various factors that contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and to provide some insights into possible solutions to this major health issue.

Keywords: alternatives to antibiotics; antimicrobial resistance; farm animals; food safety; foodborne pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review