5 antibiotic facts for World Antibiotic Awareness Week

Last week marked the first World Antibiotic Awareness Week, and all week on social media, you may have noticed folks advocating for the responsible and careful use of antibiotics in humans and animals. The livestock industry has been active in the conversation, working to educate producers on how to use antibiotics judiciously and ways we can reduce antimicrobial resistance in humans.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria change and become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause. Over-use and misuse of antibiotics increase the development of resistant bacteria, and this survey points out some of the practices, gaps in understanding and misconceptions which contribute to this phenomenon.”

READ: Are you the cause of antibiotic resistance?

Despite the growing rhetoric about this issue, there is still an alarming amount of misconceptions about antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance. In fact, the WHO recently conducted a multi-country survey which revealed just how confused some people are about the growing issue of antibiotic resistance.


Here are five takeaway messages from the survey; perhaps those of us in the animal agriculture industry can use this information to better understand consumer perceptions and help address some of these misconceptions.

  1. Three quarters (76%) of respondents think that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, bacteria—not humans or animals—become resistant to antibiotics and their spread causes hard-to-treat infections.
  2. Two thirds (66%) of respondents believe that individuals are not at risk of a drug-resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed. Nearly half (44%) of people surveyed think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly. In fact, anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
  3. More than half (57%) of respondents feel there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, while nearly two thirds (64%) believe medical experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious. 
  4. Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents say farmers should give fewer antibiotics to food-producing animals.
  5. Almost two thirds (64%) of some 10,000 people who were surveyed across 12 countries say they know antibiotic resistance is an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affects them and what they can do to address it are not well understood.

Want to test your knowledge on antibiotics? Take a WHO quiz to see how much you know about antibiotic resistance. Click here to take the quiz.

Video: How antibiotics are used in agriculture

The animal agriculture industry can’t stick our nose in the sand on this issue. Now is a great time to have discussions with folks about how beef producers responsibly uses antibiotics and the ways the industry is responding to the rising issue of antimicrobial resistance. How do you think the industry should respond? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

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