Human health hazards associated with the administration of antimicrobials to slaughter animals. Part II. An assessment of the risks of resistant bacteria in pigs and pork.Vet Q 2001; 23(1):10-21VQ
Risks for the consumer regarding the acquisition of resistant bacteria and/or resistance genes via the consumption of pork are discussed. In general, Salmonella spp. and Escherichia coli that originate from animals do not easily transfer their resistance genes to the resident intestinal flora of humans. The prevalence of resistant E. coli in humans seems more associated with being a vegetarian (odds ratio (OR) 1.89) than with the consumption of meat and meat products. Other risk factors are treatment with antimicrobials (OR 2-5), becoming hospitalized (OR 5.93), or working in a health setting (OR 4.38). In the Netherlands, annually an estimated 45,000 people (0-150,000) become a carrier of resistant E. coli and/or resistance genes that ori ginate from pigs, while an estimated 345,000 persons (175,000-600,000) become a carrier of resistant E. coli and/or resistance genes that originate from hospitals, e.g. other patients. Any problems with resistant Salmonella spp. that stem from pigs are, in fact, an integral part of the total problem of food-borne salmonellosis. Sometimes there are outbreaks of a specific multi-resistant clone of S. typhimurium that causes problems in both farm animals and humans. The probability that in the next 30 years there is no or maximally one outbreak of a specific clone that originates from pig herds is estimated at about 75%. Antimicrobials used as a growth promoter can have a measurable influence on the prevalence of resistant bacteria. The likely chain of events regarding avoparcin and the selection and dissemination of resistance against vancomycin in the enterococci gives the impression that the impact of the use of antimicrobials in animals on the prevalence of resistance in humans is largely determined by whether resistance genes are, or become, located on a self-transferable transposon. Furthermore, consumer health risks of antimicrobials used in slaughter pigs are mainly determined by the selection and dissemination of bacterial resistance and much less by the toxicological properties of any residues in pork. It is also concluded that most of the problems with resistant bacteria in humans are associated with the medical use of antimicrobials, and that the impact of particularly the veterinary use of antimicrobials is limited. However, the impact of antimicrobials used as a feed additive appears to be much greater than that of antimicrobials used for strictly veterinary purposes. The use of antimicrobials as a feed additive should therefore be seriously reconsidered.